China mandates GM labeling. Why won't the U.S.?

China mandates GM labeling. Why won't the U.S.?

According to the Shanghai Daily newspaper, citizens in China are up in arms over being sold cooking oils that contained genetically modified ingredients but were not clearly labeled as such. The consumers have filed a complaint with Chinese authorities because they say they try to avoid GMOs for health reasons and wouldn’t have wanted to buy the oil had they known GM soybeans were used in the products’ manufacture.

In reading this story, I have to say I was surprised to learn that China has stricter GM labeling policies than we do here in the United States—where actually we have no such policies at all.

Here, we are sold food products made with GM ingredients every day without the benefit of mandatory labeling to help inform our purchasing decisions. China, on the other hand, has mandated the labeling of GM foods since 2004. In the case of the cooking oil, the manufacturers did actually put on the product label that GM soybeans were used. However, the consumers involved in the complaint argued that this information was printed in a font so small it was illegible.

I’ve been learning a lot lately about how consumers in Europe were able to help bring about mandatory GM labeling and now I want to know more about the background of this consumer protection in China.

Could consumer action here in America eventually lead to mandatory GM labeling? Some people I’ve spoken with say they aren’t very optimistic because of the FDA’s track record on this issue.

The agency has refused to require labeling in the past and even banned the use of “GMO-free” labels, arguing that it’s impossible to prove a product is 100 percent free from GM ingredients. The FDA also told Spectrum Oil that it couldn’t use a label that showed a red circle with a line through it and the words “GMO” because such labeling might make people think that genetically modified foods are bad.  

What are your thoughts? What will it take to convinced FDA that, just like in China and Europe, the citizens of the United States deserve to know whether the food they buy and consume contains genetically modified ingredients?

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