AMES, Iowa — “The science of food safety does not support mandatory process-based labeling of genetically engineered food and, by extension, neither does the Food and Drug Administration,” according to a research paper published by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. The report, published April 28, goes on to note that if mandatory labeling for products containing bioengineered ingredients were put into effect, it may have wide ranging consequences for the food and beverage industry as well as consumers.

“All domesticated crops and animals have been genetically modified in some way; there is no science-based reason to single out genetically engineered foods and feeds for mandatory process-based labeling,” the report’s authors said. “Wide-ranging evidence shows that GE technology is equally safe to conventional breeding.”

The report, titled “The potential impacts of mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food in the United States,” also reviews the current state of the market for products not featuring bioengineered ingredients and finds there are many options currently available.

“Mandatory labeling based on process abandons the traditional US practice of providing for consumer food preferences through voluntary product differentiation and labeling (i.e., marketing and promotion of products with specific attributes),” according to the report. “Market-driven voluntary labeling measures (e.g., organic, Non-GMO Project, Whole Foods initiative) currently provide consumers with non-GE choices in the US marketplace.”

Finally, the CAST report states that mandatory labeling of products containing bioengineered ingredients will lead to higher food costs.

“The size of this increase will depend on choices made in the marketplace by suppliers and marketers, and what products are included in labeling requirements,” the report said. “If, as in other countries, sellers move to non-GE offerings in response to mandatory labeling, food costs could rise significantly and these increased costs would exact a greater burden on low-income families. If, on the other hand, food suppliers choose to label virtually all products as containing GE without testing or segregation, increases in costs might be minimal.”

The authors conclude that the rhetoric currently dominating the debate over mandatory labeling is proving to be counterproductive.

“Independent objective information on the scientific issues and the possible legal ramifications and economic consequences of mandatory GE food labels needs to be provided to legislators and consumers, especially in states with labeling initiatives on the ballot, to help move the national discussion from contentious claims and counterclaims to a more fact-based and informed dialog,” they said.

A copy of the full CAST report may be viewed by clicking the following link: CAST Report.