A new scientific study done by the Ames-based Council for Agricultural Science and Tech­nology (CAST) says there is no science-based reason to single out foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and that mandatory labeling of biotech foods would unfairly stigmatize them in the marketplace and could raise food costs.

The paper’s authors, chaired by Alison Van Eenennaam of the University of California-Davis, wrote that all domesticated crops and animals have been genetically modified in some way. And they concluded that wide-ranging evidence shows that foods made with genetic engineering (GE) technology are equally safe to conventional breeding.

Because there is no material difference in composition and safety of the foods made with biotech crops, the science of food safety does not support a mandatory process-based labeling, the authors wrote. They also note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has long held that there is no basis for finding that GE foods are different than foods made from crops that are developed without the technology.

In addition, the authors note, voluntary labeling currently provides choices of non-GMO foods for consumers.

Mandatory labeling could also raise food costs because it may force some food manufacturers to abandon biotech crops in their ingredients. The higher costs, the paper says, would likely hit poor consumers the hardest because they spend a larger proportion of their income on food.

A patchwork of laws

The CAST paper also cites the issues raised by state-by-state labeling laws, which could create a patchwork of laws that would be difficult for food companies and are likely to be challenged in court. Vermont recently passed a law to require labeling of food made with GMO products, and legislation and ballot initiatives are being considered in other states.

Farm Bureau has backed an effort in Congress that calls for a voluntary labeling plan and makes the FDA the nation’s foremost authority on the use and labeling of foods.

"The GMO labeling ballot initiatives and legislative efforts that many state lawmakers and voters are facing are geared toward making people wrongly fear what they’re eating and feeding their children," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. "They undermine the public’s understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology in feeding a growing population — and keeping costs down."