Whole Foods got some attention today with an announcement that it will require the makers of food products sold in its stores to state on the label if a product contains an ingredient produced through agricultural biotechnology - a “GMO.” It is giving manufacturers five years, until 2018, to provide the labels.
But the facts don’t support Whole Foods’ new policy. It’s just commercial positioning rather than a scientifically-based initiative.
Leading scientific authorities, including the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academies of Science, and the World Health Organization, agree that foods derived from biotechnology are as safe and nutritious as food manufactured from organic and conventional ingredients.
All methods of agricultural production — biotech, conventional and organic — use inputs to fertilize plants and control weeds and insects. Voluntary labeling of foods that is consistent with the production method used is already available.
Mandatory labeling, however, applies only to information regarding nutritional content or health-related characteristics, such as allergenicity or toxicity, which are not issues that have ever been associated with biotech ingredients.
Labeling of “GMO’s” is thus not necessary for health and safety. It’s just part of the differentiation strategy in a particular segment of the retail industry.