What is Monsanto’s position on labeling?

Each week, we will answer a question from our readers regarding our operations and community outreach in the State of Hawaii. Submit your question by visiting the contact page. Thanks for reading. Mahalo! 

What is Monsanto’s position on labeling?

Thanks for all your questions, keep them coming.  This week, we answer a question that many of you have asked about: labeling food products.

Monsanto Hawaii supports voluntary labeling as is currently allowed under federal law. What we do not support is mandatory labeling, which is highly problematic. Here’s why:

At Monsanto Hawaii, the safety of our products is our first priority. Multiple health societies, hundreds of independent scientific experts and dozens of governments around the world have determined that foods and ingredients developed through biotechnology [or genetic modification (GM)] are safe.  Since GM crops were first commercialized in 1996, more than 17 million farmers in nearly 30 countries worldwide have planted GM crops on more than 420 million acres – with no evidence of harm to humans or animals. To check out some of these independent studies go to BioFortified.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees food labeling. The FDA requires labeling of food products containing ingredients from GM seed if there is a meaningful difference between that food and its conventional counterpart. For example, suppose a new GM plant with higher levels of vitamins is developed. The FDA would require it to be labeled accordingly. The American Medical Association (AMA) supports the FDA’s approach and approved a formal statement asserting that there is no scientific justification for special labeling of foods containing GM ingredients.

We agree with the AMA and support the FDA’s guidance on labeling food products containing GM ingredients. We oppose mandatory labeling of food and ingredients developed from GM seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risks, as it could imply incorrectly that foods containing these ingredients are somehow inferior to their conventional or organic counterparts.

The FDA does allow food manufacturers to voluntarily label their products to note certain attributes or production methods (e.g., organic) provided the label is truthful and not misleading. We support this approach. Food companies should be allowed to determine what type of information meets the needs and desires of their customers.

For customers who prefer buying non-GM foods, there are thousands of products already labeled under current FDA rules as certified organic or non-GM. General Mills’ decision to label its original Cheerios and the Non-GMO Project are two examples of how voluntary labeling can provide information to those consumers who want it.

Additionally, studies in California and Washington have found that mandatory labeling initiatives would increase the cost of food for the average family by as much as $400 to $450 per year, as well as cost taxpayers millions of dollars to implement and enforce. State-mandated labeling laws may also be unconstitutional according Hawaii’s Attorney General and other legal experts.

Current labeling laws provide choices for consumers while avoiding the potential downsides of mandatory labeling including higher food costs, legal issues and the potential to mislead the public about the quality, safety or healthfulness of the products they have come to know and trust.