Scientific and Academic Community Responds to Qualification of Ballot Measure Mandating Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods

June 13, 2012

Leading scientists and academics today issued a statement in response to the qualification of a measure on California’s November ballot that would require mandatory labels of food grown or produced using genetic engineering. Like the overwhelming majority of scientific and medical experts and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, these scientists believe that foods made with the benefit of modern biotechnology are safe and that labeling them as “genetically engineered” would mislead consumers by creating the false impression that foods containing GE ingredients are less safe than foods made without the benefit of biotechnology.

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Bob Goldberg, Distinguished Professor of Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology at UCLA, Member, National Academy of Sciences:  “As a scientist who has spent the better part of my career studying and utilizing biotechnology, or genetic engineering, I am extremely concerned about qualification of this ballot measure. It’s a Trojan Horse, promising the ‘Right to Know’ but really only serving to mislead Californians about the safety of their food. Foods made using modern biotechnology are thoroughly tested and proven safe. Labels are misleading and unnecessary.”

Nina Federoff, Ph.D, Distinguished Professor, Recipient of National Medal of Science, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST); Evan Pugh Professor, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Penn State University: “Foods made with the benefit of modern biotechnology are some of the safest and most thoroughly-tested foods to ever enter our food supply. I’m passionately opposed to labeling for the sake of labeling without providing any health or safety benefits, as this measure does, because the cost burden for doing so falls on those who can least afford it.”

Martina Newell-McGloughlin, DSc. Executive Director Strategic Research Initiatives, University of California Davis:  “Mandatory labeling can only be scientifically justified when based on the characteristics of the food product, not on the processes used in their development. But there are no material differences between crops that have been genetically modified using modern techniques and other crops, and they have routinely been found to be as safe. Unfortunately, it is easy to sell fear and doubt, which is exactly what the proponents are doing with this measure.”

Roger N. Beachy, Ph.D., President Emeritus, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center; Former Director National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA; Member, National Academy of Science; Laureate, Wolf Prize in Agriculture:  “Modern biotechnology offers important tools to increase agricultural productivity, protect crops from insects, pests and diseases, reduce the use of pesticides and water and increase the nutritional benefits of certain foods. GE foods have been studied for 25 years and been found to be safe. It would be really unfortunate if this measure passed because it would erroneously call into question the safety of these foods and their value to solve many global environmental and hunger problems.”