Monday, January 19, 2009

Consumers Want Labels on Genetically Engineered Food

Jean Halloran (Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports) is fuming over the FDA's decision not to require labels on genetically engineered animal foods:

FDA Will Not Require Labeling Of Meat Or Fish From Genetically Engineered Animals:
Consumers Union Says Decision Ignores Consumer Right To Choose
"This one-minute-to-midnight regulation is a final favor to industry delivered as the current FDA Administrator goes out the door."

We hope the new Obama administration will reverse this ill-considered guidance and require labeling of genetically engineered meat and milk products as soon as possible after it takes office next week."

The photo shows genetically engineered coho salmon on the right, and natural coho salmon on the left. All salmon are one year of age. The larger salmon were genetically engineered to express more growth hormone, in doing so, to grow bigger in a shorter period of time.

In a January, 2003 article in the Washington Times, Stephen Mitchell, UPI Medical Correspondent wrote:1
"The Center for Food Safety in Washington, which filed a legal petition with the FDA and other governmental agencies to keep the transgenic fish from coming to market, also has concerns about the health risks posed to humans consuming the fish. The FDA needs to establish "a real process of looking at the human health impacts of the fish," said Joseph Mendelson, the center's legal director.

Elevated levels of growth hormones could create risks or unintended effects, such as allergies in some people, Mendelson said."
I don't know enough about this yet, but weren't growth hormones a concern with milk from cows given rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone)?
"Recent research has shown conclusively that the levels of a hormone called "insulin-like growth factor-1" (IGF-1) are elevated in dairy products produced from cows treated with rBGH.

Numerous studies now demonstrate that IGF-1 is an important factor in the growth of cancers of the breast, prostate and colon."2
There is also concern that genetically engineered fish could escape their pens (they're farmed) and damage native/wild populations.

I'm not arguing against genetic engineering; I'm arguing against lack of labels. People make decisions about what to eat based on issues other than food safety (there hasn't been a determination that GE animals are safe to eat), including environmental safety, sustainability, and ethics. People want labels:
"A recent Consumers Union poll found that 95 percent of consumers favor labeling of meat and milk from genetically engineered animals."
So why no labels?
"Despite thousands of comments from consumers saying they want to know if engineered meat or fish is in their supermarket, FDA claims these foods are not different from conventional food, and therefore don't need to be labeled. ... This flies in the face of consumer opinion and common sense. These foods should be labeled because they are different."
- Jean Halloran
1 Safety Of Transgenic Animals Doubted
2 Center For Food Safety: rBGH/rBST
Photo from Office of the Auditor General of Canada, 2008 March Status Report, Chapter 14 - Responses to Environmental Petitions: Genetically Engineered Fish

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