At their annual convention in Chicago this month, the American Medical Association passed a resolution calling for mandatory testing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) foods. The organization did not call for labeling of these altered foods, as many groups want, although 19 doctors did sign a statement calling for labeling.
That statement said:
“In the face of scientific uncertainty, labeling is a common risk management tool and one that could help track any potential adverse health effects. Our support of labeling also takes into consideration the fact that consumers want to know whether there are genetically engineered ingredients in their food, and they have a right to know. We stand with the 90% of Americans who want mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.”
Other organizations that have passed resolutions calling for labeling of GE foods include the American Nurses Association, the California Medical Association, and the British Medical Association. Groups that endorse the California Right to Know Ballot initiative include Physicians for Social Responsibility, the American Medical Students Association, and the American Public Health Association.
This fall, California voters will have the opportunity to vote on a measure that would make labeling of GMO and GE foods mandatory. Those foods have had their DNA altered by transplanting genes from plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria in ways that cannot occur in nature.
There have been no long-term studies on the safety of these practices. Instead, the safety of these foods is based on the “substantial equivalence” standard. That means if a food is substantially equivalent to an existing food, it can be regarded as safe as the existing food.
Consumers Union issued a statement about the AMA decision. Michael Hansen, senior scientist with that organization, said, “We wholeheartedly commend AMA for coming out in support of mandatory premarket safety assessment of GE foods, but are disappointed that the AMA did not also support mandatory labeling.” CU says that studies have shown that GE foods could introduce new food allergens and have adverse effects on animals who eat the engineered foods.