The head of a leading consumer group said Thursday that labels informing consumers about whether a product has genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is a “good idea,” weighing in on a contentious issue that has divided industry and consumer groups.
Marta Tellado, CEO of consumer advocate magazine Consumer Reports, published monthly by the non-profit Consumers Union, wrote in an op-ed on CNN that “everyone deserves to know what's in their food so they can make informed decisions about what to feed themselves and their families.”
Consumer rights advocates and anti-GMO groups have called for all GMO foods to be labeled when sold in stores, arguing that it will make consumers more informed and better equipped to make purchasing decisions. Those who oppose the idea point out that the scientific community generally agrees that GMO products are safe for consumption, despite the majority of the public believing otherwise, and claim that the cost of labeling the products will be prohibitively high, according to a January Pew Survey.
In May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rolled out a government-certified label for foods that did not contain any GMOs, although it will not be mandatory for all products. In order to be certified as GMO-free, less than 1 percent of a product’s ingredients should be genetically modified.
“Labeling is a simple and common sense solution to protect consumer choice. Companies that grow and sell genetically modified foods haven't yet come up with a convincing excuse to explain why their customers should not have this information. When those companies spend untold millions to keep their customers in the dark by battling efforts to properly label their products, we ask why,” Tellado wrote, calling for mandatory labeling of all GMO products.
“Agreeing to label GMO foods will let companies demonstrate they are listening to the overwhelming majority of their customers. That's good business,” she added.
Tellado’s op-ed came ahead of a Thursday Congressional session to discuss a bill that would call for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to devise a coordinated set of standards nationwide, which would preempt state-level GMO labeling efforts. Tellado criticized the bill, saying that the H.R. 1599 would “make it illegal for states to require labeling of genetically modified foods.”