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Consumers Union on AMA’s policy position on GE foods

CU commends AMA for supporting mandatory premarket safety assessment but disappointed about mandatory labeling

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Consumers Union on AMA’s policy position on GE foods

The American Medical Association (AMA) today adopted a new policy position in support of mandatory premarket systematic safety assessment for genetically engineered foods at its annual meeting in Chicago. Genetically engineered foods come from plants or animals that have been developed in a laboratory and had their genetic material altered in ways that do not occur in nature.

The AMA also said that priority should be given to basic research into food allergenicity to held identify potential allergens present in food as a result of genetic engineering, and into developing techniques to assess unintended effects of genetic engineering.

However, in spite of calling for mandatory premarket safety assessment of GE foods, AMA believes “there is no scientific basis for special labeling of genetically engineered foods.”

Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist with Consumers Union, said, “We wholeheartedly commend AMA for coming out in support of mandatory premarket safety assessment of GE foods, but are disappointed that AMA did not also support mandatory labeling. At present, FDA does not require premarket safety assessment of GE foods. Studies in the scientific literature have suggested that genetic engineering could introduce new food allergens, increase the levels of known allergens, raise or lower nutrient levels and have adverse effects on the animals that eat such foods. We’re glad AMA agrees these effects need to be assessed.”

Dr. Hansen said, “The AMA’s stance on mandatory labeling isn’t consistent with its support for mandatory pre-market safety assessments. If unexpected adverse health effects, such as an allergic reaction, happen as a result of GE, then labeling could perhaps be the only way to determine that the GE process was linked to the adverse health effect.”

There is widespread support for mandatory labeling of GE foods. A CU national survey in 2008 found that 95% of respondents wanted food from GE animals to be labeled as such. In addition, there are bills in Congress that would require labeling of GE foods, while a number of states have bills that would require labeling of GE foods. A petition submitted to FDA last fall asking the agency to require labeling of GE foods has garnered more than 1 million signatures.


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