Friday, April 22, 2011

Labeling GMO Food - New ballot initiative in the U.S.
source -

Thursday, 21 April 2011 21:11

1. Labeling GMO food - The right to know what you’re eating
2. 'Genetic labelling' claims wrong

NOTE: There's a new initiative in the US to get mandatory GM labelling put on the 2012 ballot (item 1). The website related to the article below is here:

We expect biotech interests in the US to try their usual trick of persuading people to reject the labelling initiative on the claimed grounds that it will increase food prices for consumers. But this claim has been exposed as hogwash in an article by Prof Chris Viljoen (item 2), who says, "There has never been a documented report that genetic modification labelling has led to a cost increase in food anywhere."
1. Labeling GMO food
The right to know what you’re eating
By Christine G.K. LaPado
April 21, 2011

Local grandmother and food activist Pamm Larry is leading a grassroots charge to get an initiative put on the 2012 California ballot that would require all genetically modified (GMO) foods—including meat and other products from animals fed GMO foods—to be labeled as such.

Larry (pictured) calls herself the "primary instigator" behind the Committee for the Right to Know, which recently launched a website called Label GMOs: It’s Our Right to Know ( She just got back from the San Francisco Green Festival, and she was asked to return to San Francisco in September to help organize and participate in a conference on GMOs.

Larry said that after "bitching and moaning" for years about the increasing prevalence of GMO foods and lack of labeling as such, she decided to act.

In January, she "took six weeks to learn about government and the initiative process," and by early April she had a website and a Facebook page up and running with more than 700 supporters.

Larry has been gaining support throughout the state, including from the California State Grange, she said.

She has to have a properly worded document to state authorities by September; upon approval, the big job begins of garnering enough signatures to get the initiative put on the ballot.

"As consumers, we have a right to know what we put in our mouth," Larry said.

Go to to learn more and to volunteer to help.
2. 'Genetic labelling' claims wrong
Published: 2011/02/03 07:39:05 AM

It was with interest that I read recent press articles about calls to label modified foods. I was most interested in the comments on the perceived link between the threshold for labelling and the cost of labelling.

First, whether the threshold is 5% or 1%, there is no cost difference in laboratory testing — I should know as I run the GMO Testing Facility that performs routine genetic modification detection in SA.

Further, the regulations make provision for companies to assume an ingredient contains genetically modified matter if it was derived from a crop for which there is a genetically modified equivalent being produced in SA, such as maize or soybean. In such a case, no laboratory testing would be required, with no additional cost to the company. Compared to this, companies that want to indicate an ingredient has not been genetically modified would be required to verify this using laboratory tests — but this is no different to what is being practised.

Second, the proposition that genetic modification labelling will increase food costs 10% to 20% is unfounded and based on misinformation. In a comprehensive study in the European Union (EU) it was estimated that the added cost to food of genetic modification labelling ranged from 0,01% to 0,17%, depending on the stringency required. The EU system for genetic modification labelling is considerably more stringent than in SA and from this it is reasonable to suggest that the labelling cost to food would be much lower in SA.

There has never been a documented report that genetic modification labelling has led to a cost increase in food anywhere. What is being implemented in SA can be considered a minimum level compared to genetic modification labelling in other countries, including Australia, Brazil, China, New Zealand and the EU.

Third, the comment that some food products "cannot be accurately analysed or labelled because they do not contain detectable protein" is misleading. It is true that processing destroys protein, making it undetectable, but the world standard for performing genetic modification analysis on food is not based on detecting protein but rather DNA (the molecule responsible for making the protein).

DNA is considerably more stable than protein and genetic modification detection laboratories around the world routinely analyse highly processed food ingredients, including starches and oils.

It is true, however, that extremely processed products cannot be tested accurately for genetically modified content as even the DNA may be destroyed. In such cases the ingredients used to make the extremely processed product can be tested.

Finally, genetic modification labelling is no different to labelling foods for the presence of additives or colorants — common practice in SA. There is no report that this practice has resulted in any food cost increase either. If consumer rights are truly autonomous, genetic modification labelling should be no exception.

Prof Chris Viljoen
GMO Testing Laboratory, University of the Free State


  1. The primary aim of labeling is to inform consumers whether or not a modified microorganism or plant has been included during the production. You can learn more about GMO labeling at

  2. genetically modified foods (GM foods) have made a big splash in the news lately. European environmental organizations and public interest groups have been actively protesting against genetically modified foods or GM foods for months, and recent controversial studies about the effects of genetically modified foods like corn pollen on monarch butterfly caterpillars.