M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 48

Labeling Genetically Engineered Food: Biotech's Best Bet

Thomas J. Menn and Leena E. Scaria



The labeling debate over genetically engineered (GE) food encompasses many emotions, fears, and personal beliefs over the use of biotechnology in food production. The complexity of the biotechnology, combined with the high political and economic stakes associated with the U.S. agriculture industry, has resulted in a polarized response to GE seed. Supporters of mandatory labeling believe that there are health and safety risks that regulators are overlooking. Proponents of GE technology believe it is safe and requires no special labeling requirements. We sought to identify for our client DuPont, a member of the biotech seed industry:

What is good public policy regarding the GE food labeling debate?

How can the biotech seed industry support the creation of good public policy?

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) mandate precludes it from mandating a label on GE food since genetic engineering is a production process and does not create a materially different end product (compared to a product produced without genetic engineering). Per the mandate, a mandatory label on GE food is unnecessary because there is no scientific evidence GE products negatively affect consumer’s health or safety, nor is the final food product materially different from non-GE food. This regulatory position has failed to silence the debate.

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