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Support of the Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods

Policy Date: 1/1/2001
Policy Number: 200111

THE AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION,
Recognizing that in 1998 the European Union ruled that food manufacturers must state on a label when genetically modified ingredients have been used; and
Recognizing that genetically modified organism* labeling regulations are now (1999-2000) in effect in the European Union1,2; and
Recognizing that the British Medical Association has recommended that genetically engineered foods be labeled; and
Recognizing that Australia, New Zealand3 and Japan have required mandatory labels for genetically engineered foods; and
Recognizing that substantially this same resolution regarding genetically modified organisms recently was adopted by the National Environmental Heath Association Council of Delegates; and
Recognizing that the National Environmental Heath Association’s counterpart in the United Kingdom, the Chartered Institute For Environmental Health, has adopted a policy position that supports a five-year freeze against genetically modified organisms; and
Recognizing that the current Codex, the international food regulatory commission of the World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization, is considering recommendations for the Labeling of Food and Food Ingredients Obtained Through Certain Techniques of Genetic Modification/Genetic Engineering4; and
Further recognizing that data from 2000 show that 54% of soybean and 25% of corn planted in the United States were genetically modified5; and
Recognizing that the report of the Scientific Advisory Panel to the US Environmental Protection Agency on genetically engineered crops expressed concerns related to human exposure to and consumption of these plant proteins6; and
Recognizing that legislation has now been introduced into the United States Congress that calls for the labeling of products that contain genetically engineered crops7; and
Recognizing that food labeling both upholds and is consistent with the principle of consumer choice and labeling in place for organic foods in some states; and
Recognizing that any opposition to labeling based on findings that genetically modified food products are safe discounts issues of consumer choice and bioethical concerns; and
Recognizing that food labeling makes possible a range of legitimate consumer interests ranging from a desire to avoid allergic reactions to the opportunity to exercise informed buying decisions; and
Recognizing the 1992 interim report on a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Extension Service revealing that 85% of the American public that was surveyed felt it important to label foods if biotechnology is used8,9; and
Recognizing a 1999 Time magazine poll finding 81% of respondents wanted genetically engineered food labeled, therefore,
1. Resolves that APHA declare its support that any food product containing genetically modified organisms be so labeled.
References
1. European Commission. Regulation (EC) No. 1139/98. 1998.
2. European Commission. Regulation (EC) No. 2000/49. 2000.
3. CX/FL 01/7 Proposed draft recommendations for the Labelling of Food and Food Ingredients Obtained Through Certain Techniques of Genetic Modification/ Genetic Engineering (originated from Alinorm 99/22, Appendix VIII)
4. ANZFA (Australia New Zealand Food Authority). Standard A18—Food produced using Gene Technology. 1999.
5. USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Production—Acreage supplement (PCP-BB), 2000 Cr Pr 2-5 (6-00)a (available at http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/reports/nassr/field/pcp-bba/acrg0600.txt).
6. SAP Report No. 2000-7c, March 12, 2001 Set of Scientific Issues Being Considered by the Environmental Protection Agency Regarding: Bt Plant Pesticides Risk and Benefit Assessments, “The consensus of the Panel was that there were two concerns related to exposure/consumption of proteins—acute toxicity and allergenicity. The Panel believed that it is not possible to establish an exposure threshold for all proteins, but that well established protocols exist for testing individual proteins for acute toxicity. The Panel consensus was that it is not currently possible to identify conservative threshold levels for allergenicity.” P. 71
7. Report to Extension Service, US Dept. of Agriculture, TJ Hoban, and PA Kendall. 1992. A survey of consumer attitudes about the use of biotechnology in agriculture and food production.
8. Time Magazine, “Brave New Farm – What People Think,” J Walsh. January 11, 1999.