Virginia Tech’s Eric Hallerman says that while federal legislation regulating labeling of products which contain genetically modified organisms (GMO) is imperfect it does inform consumers and is likely the best possible outcome under the current regulatory and legislative circumstances.
“Uniform federal direction would be highly preferable,” says Hallerman a professor in the department of fish and wildlife resources and an expert on the topic of genetically modified fish. “The prospect of a regulatory patchwork among states poses difficulty on the food industry.”
“Certain leading companies have begun to label their GM-containing products.” “Some producers also take it upon themselves to label their food as ‘non GMO’ and some retailers plan to label it in the next few years. Consistent guidelines, while not perfect, will certainly help.”
The new guidelines, which have passed in the Senate and are awaiting action in the House, are intended to create a nationwide labeling standard. Congress may wrap up work on the legislation in the coming days. If signed into law, the federal rules would trump existing state laws regarding labeling.
Consumer groups feel the bill doesn’t go far enough, and allows for information on genetically engineered products to be hidden from consumers. Currently Vermont has enacted a new law requiring disclosure of GMO ingredients on food labels. Other states may have followed with different regulations, leaving food producers and retailers confused.
About Dr. Hallerman
Eric Hallerman was a member of the working group that developed Performance Standards for Safely Conducting Research with Genetically Modified Fish and Shellfish, which were adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as its policy for research with transgenic fish. He was a member of the National Research Council panel that wrote Animal Biotechnology: Scientific Concerns. His expertise has been sought by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Health Organization, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, by a variety of environmental and food safety non-governmental organizations, and by the scientific and popular media.