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GMO Answers Addresses Inaccuracies in Consumer Reports Study on GMOs

November 12, 2014
CBS This Morning recently aired a segment on the Consumer Reports' study on GMOs in packaged food. During the segment, a number of questions about GMOs were raised, including questions about their history, safety, and regulation. In this post, we addressed some of the inaccuracies in the video segment, but we wanted to take the opportunity to provide answers to a few questions that were left unanswered.

Ruth MacDonald, professor and chair of food science and human nutrition, and assistant dean of graduate programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, weighs in on the question, “Why are GMOs bad for you?

“There is substantial evidence that foods and food ingredients derived from plants that have been bioengineered are safe for human and animal consumption. Four lines of evidence demonstrate the safety of GMO foods:

  1. Multiple laboratory studies done by independent scientists with a range of animals over many years have shown no health concerns. (An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research. Alessandro Nicolia, Alberto Manzo, Fabio Veronesi, and Daniele Rosellini. Critical Reviews in Biotechnology published online September 13, 2013.)

  2. Livestock have consumed GMO grains for over 20 years, and there is no evidence of changes in health, growth or reproduction. (Prevalence and impacts of genetically engineered feedstuffs on livestock populations, A. L. Van Eenennaam and A. E. Young, J ANIM SCI published online September 2, 2014.)

  3. No human disease or allergic reaction has ever been documented to be linked to consumption of GMO foods or food ingredients. (Foods derived from genetically engineered plants.)

  4. Most of the major medical and health organizations in the US and abroad have publicly stated that GMO foods and food ingredients are safe for consumption. (American Medical Association Policy on Bioengineered (Genetically Engineered) Crops and Foods H-480.958. Modern food biotechnology, human health and development: an evidence-based study.)

During the interview, CBS reporters also asked, “You tell us it [food] has GMOs, and you want us to do what with that information?” Cathy Enright, executive director for the Council for Biotechnology Information, provides her perspective on GMO labeling:
“For us, this question is the crux of the GMO labeling debate: how do we provide information that is useful to the consumer and is not used to scare us.

"Contrary to what some might think, we support a consumer’s right to know what is in their food. Since our business is agriculture, we think it’s great that people are interested in learning about how our food is grown and arrives at the marketplace - from the seed, to harvest, through processing, and finally, what’s available at our local farmer’s market or grocery store…

"We also support mandatory food labeling that safeguards our health and nutrition, such as making sure we’re aware of the potential presence of allergens, and notifying us of a change in composition, nutrition, smell or flavor of a product in comparison to its conventional counterpart. This is information immediately useful in making important health and nutrition decisions.

"But, what does a mandatory ‘may contain GMOs’ label tell the consumer about health, nutrition, an ingredient, or how a food may have been processed? As we discussed in another post on our website."

Rutgers University conducted a survey in 2013 about consumers' awareness and perception of GMOs. According to an article about the report:
"[D]etermining what labeling information they value is not a straightforward task…

"Before [we introduced] the idea of GM foods, the survey participants were asked simply, 'What information would you like to see on food labels that is not already on there?' In response, only seven percent raised GMO labeling on their own… In contrast, when asked directly whether GM foods should be required to be labeled, 73 percent said yes.”

We understand consumers’ have a lot of questions and concerns about GMOs. Whether the number is 7% or 73% or 90% who want labels, or whether mandatory labeling is being used to prejudice one plant breeding method, we believe it’s important to provide comprehensive, factual information about GMOs and agriculture and to answer any question that helps consumers make informed decisions when out shopping for ourselves or our families.

Visit Answering CBS Reporters’ Questions about GMOs to read this post in its entirety. Furthermore, if you have outstanding questions after watching the CBS/Consumer reports segment, please submit your questions at