Consumers have spoken: Surveys consistently show that 80 percent to 95 percent of people want foods that contain genetically modified organisms to be labeled. But the Food and Drug Administration isn’t listening. At a recent senate hearing, the FDA Commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, said the FDA does not support mandatory GMO food labeling.
It’s the same stance the agency has had for the last two decades. Since then, genetically modified foods—more accurately called genetically engineered, or GE, foods—have only become more widespread. About 70 percent of processed foods are made with genetically engineered ingredients. Usually it’s soy, corn, or canola oil, but sugar beets, papaya, and zucchini can also be genetically modified. And the FDA is expected to issue a ruling on genetically engineered salmon and genetically engineered apples soon.
Yet, there’s a lot we don’t know about the health risks. “We’re still all guinea pigs when it comes to eating GE foods,” Michael Hansen, Ph.D., senior scientist at Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, said. Some animal studies have found that genetically engineered foods may cause liver, kidney and bone marrow problems. There are also concerns that these products may introduce new allergens into the food supply. “When genetic engineering changes a plant, it may create toxins,” Hansen said. “And we still don’t know what the health effects might be.”