5 On Your Side

GMOs prevalent in many foods, but labeling not required

Posted October 27, 2014

Label-conscious food shoppers may look for things such as vitamin, fiber and sugar content in their purchases, but what they won’t see is how many genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are in their food.

That’s because GMO labeling is not required in the United States.

In addition, GMOs are not required to be proven safe before they’re used in food. About 90 percent of corn produced in the United States is genetically modified. Same with soybeans.

Some animal studies suggest that GMOs may cause liver, kidney and immune system damage, but scientists say there’s not enough research to determine how GMOs can harm humans.

Consumer Reports recently tested a variety of soy and corn products for GMOs, from cereals to snack bars and soy-based infant formulas.

"Unless they were labeled organic, the vast majority of products without a specific claim regarding GMOs actually did contain a substantial amount,” said Dr. Michael Crupain, director of Consumer Reports' Food Safety and Sustainability Center.

Foods labeled ‘natural’ are also not GMO exempt.

"There is no legal definition for the claim 'natural' on processed foods,” Crupain said. “Virtually all the samples we tested that said ‘natural,’ but didn't make claims about being organic or non GMO, in fact contained a high percentage of GMOs."

Crupain said the most reliable labels for avoiding GMOs are ‘non-GMO project verified’ or ‘organic.’

GMO labeling and safety assessments are mandatory in other major developed countries, including China, Japan and the European Union.

"Scientists around the world agree that GMOs have the potential to introduce allergens and create other unintended changes that may affect health," said Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union and an authority on genetic engineering.

The use of genetically modified seeds has steadily grown over the last two decades, resulting in about a 10-fold increase in farmers' use of glyphosate, a weed killer better known as Roundup. 

But this created a new problem for farmers - a rising number of "super weeds" that are immune to glyphosate.

"This defeats one of the major reasons why GMOs were introduced in the first place," Hansen said.

Vermont recently passed legislation requiring GMO labeling on foods. Labeling requirements are on the ballot in Oregon and Colorado this fall. Dozens of other states are considering similar legislation.

A similar bill was introduced in North Carolina a few years ago, but nothing happened with it.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • 68_dodge_polara Nov 3, 2014

    View quoted thread

    So what is the difference between the two statements?

  • moniquenesbitt Nov 3, 2014

    There is an error in this article. The consumer reports article states: "You may be surprised to know that the federal government has not mandated that genetically modified organisms be proved safe before they're used in your food. " This WRAL article edits that sentence to say: In addition, GMOs are not required to be proven safe before they’re used in food." This is an incorrect and untrue statement. Please correct this article.

  • hardycitrus Oct 30, 2014

    Most fruits and vegetables are measurably.

    If you ate a balanced diet of supplements but mostly carrots or beets or celery you would quickly get ill from the natural plant toxins.

  • 68_dodge_polara Oct 30, 2014

    "GMOs are not required to be proven safe before they’re used in food"? Really?

    Scary isn't it. Monsanto owns congress (and yes both parties)

  • caf600 Oct 29, 2014

    Swoodley - Did you know that "USDA Organic" is a marketing campaign? http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop
    Organic is an industry driven by consumers and Mercola wants a piece of the action.
    Take the "3 Things You Need to Know about GMOs" Huber mentions in your article.
    #1 - See my previous comment about the 2000+ studies. You can't honestly think that none were peer reviewed. See for yourself though.
    #2 - If correlation proved causation, then you could say organic food sales causes autism: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Correlation-VS-Causation.png
    #3 - Organic and GMO veggies are nutritionally equal. GMO veggies can actually be MORE nutritious than their organic counterparts (think Golden Rice). And just because a veggie is organic does not mean that it has no pesticides. The pesticides may be organic but they are still poisonous. Always wash your produce!

  • shawnmotyka Oct 29, 2014

    The reporting in this article is simply reckless and shameful. WRAL should be ashamed to publish this. It is one thing to present a one-sided view, it is another to litter it with flat out misinformation. "GMOs are not required to be proven safe before they’re used in food"? Really?

  • swoodley Oct 29, 2014

    Robyn O'Brien and Cornucopia Institute provide lots of info on their website/facebook pages about GMOs.  This is a revealing interview with Dr. Don Huber who is professor of plant pathology at Purdue University:

  • John Fleming Oct 29, 2014
    user avatar

    Ms. Laliberte, as a farmer I am disappointed in this reporting. Most of this article only tells one side of the story, while a small portion is just untrue. "Some animal studies suggest that GMOs may cause liver, kidney and immune system damage, but scientists say there’s not enough research to determine how GMOs can harm humans." There is lots of research done on the safety of this breeding technique, but naysayers discount it because it doesn't produce the results desired. The largest test is the fact that several million (if not in the billions) people consume GMO's several times a day, and have been for 15 years with no real epidemic diseases or health problems occurring as a result.

    The US House introduced and passed a bill addressing uniform GMO labeling across all states earlier this year, but it will not be voted on in the Senate. With that in mind, when looking at a food package, if it does not say "organic" or "certified non-gmo" then odds are it contains gmo's.

  • caf600 Oct 29, 2014

    "Some animal studies suggest that GMOs may cause liver, kidney and immune system damage..."

    If you are referring to the Seralini study, it was retracted:

    There are 2000+ studies over the past 10 years showing that GMOs are safe. See the link at the bottom of this article:

    "GMOs have the potential to introduce allergens..." That is one reason why GMOs go through such extensive testing before going commercial.

    Food is labeled for two reasons: marketing and food safety. Companies are free to market their foods as containing GMOs or not. But unless an ingredient has been proven to be nutritionally different or harmful to a certain population (neither of which applies to GMOs), the FDA does not require it to be on the label.

  • lrbras01 Oct 28, 2014

    And in regards to celiac disease on the basis of this article. "Gluten is a protein that’s found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a wheat / rye hybrid)." That direct quote from the article posted below shows where gluten is found. Currently there are no "GMO" small grains registered in the world. All small grains are developed through traditional breeding methods, not transgenic methods. So in fact, GMO corn and beans have in no way shape or form led to this particular disease.