By implying GMO ingredients less safe, labeling fails test for rationality

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

The gratuitous controversy continues over whether foods from plants and animals that have been genetically engineered should be labeled as such. The battle has been fought in the media, in state legislatures, through referendum issues, and in federal courts. Most labeling proposals have failed. Yet even though mandatory labeling fails every test for rationality — scientific, economic, and common-sense — and even though activists’ “successes” are likely to be reversed as unconstitutional when they are challenged in the federal courts, the true believers soldier on.

Tired of these endless activist brush fires, food, farm, and agribusiness interests have devised a sweeping legislative solution. Unfortunately, it is a flawed Faustian bargain. The bill, the Safe & Accurate Food Labeling Act, failed last year in the House, but Representatives Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) and G. K. Butterfield (D., N.C.) reintroduced it as H.R. 1599 on March 25.

The bill has two principal goals: (1) Affirm that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is the definitive national authority on the safety and labeling of genetically engineered food, thereby preempting regulation by states and localities and eliminating the prospect of a 50-state patchwork of laws; and (2) require the FDA to conduct a case-by-case review and approve “the use or application of the bioengineered organism in food.”

The first is very good; the second, very bad.

FDA preemption of state and local regulation will extinguish the brush fires. State and local safety and labeling laws for genetically engineered foods should be prohibited, because they are inherently misleading: They imply, wrongly, that genetically engineered ingredients are less safe or nutritious than “natural” substances, or at least that they are fundamentally different in some way. The newest techniques for genetic modification are part of a centuries-old continuum of technologies, and, as federal regulators have said repeatedly, labeling would erroneously imply a meaningful difference where none exists. Moreover, federal courts have said that such mandatory labeling violates First Amendment protections of commercial free speech.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: A Faustian Bargain on Food Regulation


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