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GMOs and food: Do you know what you're eating?

Foods that contain genetically modified organisms should be labeled

Published: October 17, 2014 04:15 PM

For more than two decades, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has supported the labeling of genetically engineered foods, also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

As reported in “Where GMOs Hide in Your Food,” Consumer Reports recently tested several packaged-food items containing corn or soy, and found genetically engineered foods in household staples such as breakfast cereals, chips, and infant formula. National polls, including one from Consumers Reports, consistently show that a majority of Americans want to know whether their food is genetically altered.

China, Japan, European nations, and other countries require genetically modified organisms to be proven safe before they're used in food, but the U.S. does not require such safety testing. Genetic engineering can introduce allergens and toxins into foods, can cause nutritional changes, and might have unexpected effects. We believe more research is needed to determine whether genetically modified organisms are harmful to people. 

You have the right to know what’s in your food, and that's why we think GMO labels are so important. Foods that are frozen, made from concentrate, or homogenized are all required to be labeled, and products containing genetically modified organisms should be labeled as well.

GMO labeling laws have passed in Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine (the latter two states require neighboring states to pass similar laws in order to go into effect).

This fall, voters in Oregon and Colorado will decide whether to require labels on genetically engineered foods. Early voting in both states begins this month. The final results will be tallied on Nov. 4.

Big Food and biotech, and agriculture corporations are pouring in millions of advertising dollars to defeat these ballot initiatives, just as they have done to halt GMO labeling efforts in other states. Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Consumers Union’s senior scientist and an internationally recognized expert on genetically modified organisms, appears in a TV ad speaking in support of Oregon’s Measure 92.

Industry has argued that GMO labeling would cost consumers hundreds of dollars each year. We commissioned a study by an independent economic analysis firm to look at the true cost of labeling genetically engineered foods in Oregon. The study found that the median cost to a consumer of GMO labeling in existing analyses is just $2.30 per year, less than a penny per day. Read "Will GMO Labeling Boost Your Grocery Bill?" for more information.

Find out more about genetically engineered foods on Consumers Union's

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.

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