Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-77ffc5d9c7-6tv98 Total loading time: 0.33 Render date: 2021-04-23T09:34:10.242Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

Labeling of genetically modified food: Closer to reality in the United States?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 January 2016

Anton E. Wohlers
Office of Academic Enrichment, Cameron University, 2800 W. Gore Blvd., Lawton, OK 73505
E-mail address:


Within the broader context of several related biotech developments, including the proliferation of GM food in American grocery stories, the recent decision by Whole Foods Market, Inc. to require the labeling of all genetically modified (GM) organism products sold in its stores by 2018, and the development of GM animals for consumption, this essay asks whether the United States is inching towards a policy of mandatory GM food labeling. The analysis highlights aspects of the biotechnology policy debate in the United States and European Union, and traces public opinion as well as grassroots and legislative efforts aimed at GM food labeling. Findings show that activities at the federal level do not suggest any major regulatory changes regarding labeling in the near future; however, a growing number of individual states are considering GM food labeling legislation and political momentum in favor of labeling has picked up in recent years. Voluntary labeling by food companies may also become increasingly common.

Copyright © Association for Politics and the Life Sciences 


1. Polis, Carey, “Whole Foods GMO labeling to be mandatory by 2018,” The Huffington Post March 3, 2013, Scholar
2. Food and Drug Administration, “Statement of policy: Foods derived from new plant varieties,” 1992 Scholar
3. Food and Drug Administration, Biotechnology of Food, FDA Backgrounder BG94-4, (Washington DC: Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, May 18, 1994).Google Scholar
4. Food and Drug Administration, “First biotech tomato marketed,” FDA Consumer Magazine 1994 (September): 34.Google Scholar
5. West, Darrell M., Biotechnology Policy Across National Boundaries. The Science-Industrial Complex (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
6. James, Clive, “ISAAA brief 43, global status of commercialized biotech/GM crops: 2011,” ISAAA Briefs February 7, 2012 (Ithaca, New York: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications), Scholar
7. Center for Food Safety, About Genetically Engineered Foods, 2013 (Washington, DC), Scholar
8. Byrne, P., “Labeling of genetically engineered foods,” Fact Sheet No. 9.371. Food and Nutrition Series September 2010 (Fort Collins: Colorado State University Extension), Scholar
9. Center for Food Safety, International Labeling Laws, 2013 (Washington, DC), Scholar
10. Moskvitch, Katia, “Salmon steak from GM fish could soon be on your plate,” BBC News online January 22, 2013, Scholar
11. Gustin, Georgina, “Push to label genetically modified food gains steam biotech industry claims tracing ingredients would be complex, costly,” St. Louis Post Dispatch March 3, 2012, Scholar
12. Fedoroff, Nina, “Genetically modified foods: Making the Earth say beans,” Science Journal 2007 (Spring): 15.Google Scholar
13. Pandey, A., Kamle, M., Yadava, L. P., Muthukumar, M., Kumar, P., Gupta, V., Ashfaque, M., and Pandey, B.K., “Genetically modified food: Its users, future prospects and safety assessments.” Biotechnology 2011 (9): 444458.Google Scholar
14. Homer, Michael Bennett, “Frankenfish, it's what's for dinner: The FDA, genetically engineered salmon, and the flawed regulation of biotechnology,” Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 2012 (45): 9091.Google Scholar
15. Aqua Bounty Technologies, “Environmental assessment for AquAdvantage Salmon. An Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) bearing a single copy of the stably integrated α-form of the opAFP- GHc2 gene construct at the α-locus in the EO-1αline,” August 25, 2010, Scholar
16. Moore, Dene, “Tens of thousands of comments come into U.S. FDA on Canadian GM salmon.” Canadian Press February 13, 2013, Scholar
17. Food and Drug Administration, “Draft environmental assessment and preliminary finding of no significant impact concerning a genetically engineered Atlantic salmon,” Federal Register December 26, 2012 (77): 76050. Scholar
18. Solar, Igor I., “FDA: Genetically modified salmon may be approved in 2013,” Digital Journal May 7, 2013, Scholar
19. Zuckerman, Jocelyn C., “Catch of the day: Transgenic salmon? Not so fast,” The Huffington Post May 6, 2013, Scholar
20. Losey, John E., Raynor, Linda S., and Carter, Maureen E., “Transgenic pollen harms Monarch larvae,” Nature 1999 (399): 214.Google Scholar
21. Shelton, Anthony M. and Sears, Mark K., “The Monarch butterfly controversy: Scientific interpretations of a phenomenon,” The Plant Journal 2001 (27): 483488.Google Scholar
22. Wraight, C. I., Zangeri, A.R., Carroll, M. J., and Berenbaum, M.R., “Absence of toxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis pollen to black swallowtails under field conditions,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2000 (97): 77007703.Google Scholar
23. Garcia, Maria Alice and Altieri, Miguel A., “Transgenic crops: Implications for biodiversity and sustainable agriculture,” Bulletin of Science 2005 (25): 335353.Google Scholar
24. The Royal Society of Canada, “Elements of precaution: Recommendations for the regulation of food biotechnology in Canada,” January 2001 (Ottawa, Canada), Scholar
25. Nordlee, Julie A., Taylor, Steve L., Townsend, Jeffrey A., Thomas, Laurie A., and Bush, Robert K., “Identification of a brazil nut allergen in transgenic soybeans,” New England Journal of Medicine 1996 (334): 688.Google Scholar
26. Van Tassel, Katharina A., “Genetically modified plants used for food. Risk assessment and uncertainty principles: Does the transition from ignorance to indeterminacy trigger the need for post-market surveillance?” Boston University Journal of Science and Technology Law 2009 (15): 220251.Google Scholar
27. Munro, W. A. and Schurman, R. A., “Sustaining outrage: Cultural capital, strategic location and motivating sensibilities in the U.S. anti-genetic engineering movement,” in Wright, Wynne and Middendorf, Gerad, eds., The Fight Over Food: Producers, Consumers, and Activists Challenge the Global Food System (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008), pp. 145176.Google Scholar
28. Wiesel, Lisa H., Food Fray: Inside the Controversy Over Genetically Modified Food (New York: American Management Association, 2009).Google Scholar
29. Shand, Hope, “The big six: A profile of corporate power in seeds, agrochemicals and biotech,” The Heritage Farm Companion 2012 (Summer): 1015, Scholar
30. Roseboro, Ken, “The GMO cartel,” The Organic & Non-GMO Report, February 1, 2013, Scholar
31. Verma, Charu, Nanda, Surabhi, Singh, R.K., Singh, R.B., and Mishra, Sanjay. “A review on impacts of genetically modified food on human health,” Open Nutraceuticals Journal, 2011 (4): 311.Google Scholar
32. Levidow, L., Carr, S. and Wield, D., “Genetically modified crops in the European Union: Regulatory conflict and precautionary opportunities,” Journal of Risk Research 2000 (3): 189208.Google Scholar
33. Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Safety Evaluation of Foods Derived by Modern Biotechnology. Concepts and Principles (Paris: Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, 1993).Google Scholar
34. Cantley, Mark and Lex, Maurice, “Genetically modified foods and crops,” in Wiener, Jonathan B., Rogers, Michael D., Hammitt, James K., and Sand, Peter H., eds., The Reality of Precaution: Comparing Risk Regulation in the United States and Europe (New York: Earthscan, 2011), pp. 3964.Google Scholar
35. European Union, “Regulation (EC) no. 1829/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2003 on genetically modified food and feed,” Official Journal of the European Union, Scholar
36. Food Standards Agency, “Short consultation: EU harmonisation of ‘GM-free’ labeling,” January 30, 2013 (London, UK), Scholar
37. Food and Drug Administration, “Guidance for industry: Voluntary labeling indicating whether foods have or have not been developed using bioengineering,” January 2001 (Washington, DC) Scholar
38. Food and Drug Administration, “Inspections, compliance, enforcement, and criminal investigations. Court updates and other enforcement activities 2001,” August 7, 2003 (Washington, DC), Scholar
39. Zeichner, Lauren, “Product vs. process: Two labeling regimes for genetically engineered foods and how they relate to consumer preference,” Environs 2002–03 (27)2: 482483.Google Scholar
40. Huffman, Wallace E., “Production, identity preservation, and labeling in a marketplace with genetically modified and non-genetically modified foods,” Plant Physiology 2004 (134): 310.Google Scholar
41. Merchant, Gary E., Cardineau, Guy A., and Redick, Thomas P., Thawing Consumer Choice. The Case Against Mandatory Labeling for Genetically Modified Foods (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 2010).Google Scholar
42. O'Neil, Colin, “Consumers call on FDA to label GE foods,” Gene Watch 2011 (October-November): 3133.Google Scholar
43. Center for Food Safety, “Citizen petition before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” 2011 (Washington, DC), Scholar
44. Moyer, Ellen, “Telling the truth about food ingredients helps the consumer, the economy and the environment,” The Huffington Post February 6, 2013, Scholar
45. Food and Drug Administration, “Foods derived from genetically engineered plants,” April 8, 2013 (Washington, DC), Scholar
46. The Library of Congress, Bill Summary & Status. 112th Congress (2011–2012) S. AMDT. 2310, Scholar
48. Organic Consumer Association, Campaigning for Health, Justice, Sustainability, Peace, and Democracy (Finland, MN), Scholar
49. Philpott, Tom, “Could the election kill Monsanto's mutant seeds?” Mother Jones 2012 (37): 6, Scholar
50. Mitchell, Claire and Rives, Stoel, “California's GE labeling ballot initiative could be a game changer,” Guide to U.S. Food Labeling Law 2012 (August): Scholar
51. Legislature, Alaska State, “Relating to labeling and identification of genetically modified fish and fish products,” 24th Legislature (2005–06), Scholar
52. Colin, A., Guillaume Carter, P. Grure, McLaughlin, Patrick, and MacLachlan, Matthew, “California's Proposition 37: Effects of mandatory labeling of GM food,” Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics 2012, Scholar
53. Sunlight Foundation, Open States: Discover Politics in Your State, Scholar
54. Adler, Jonathan H., “How not to label biotech foods,” The New Atlantis 2012 (Summer): 3942.Google Scholar
55. Ronnie Cummings, “Are Walmart and big food lobbying for a GMO law?” AlterNet January 10, 2013, Scholar
56. Strom, Stephene, “Genetic changes to food may get uniform labeling,” New York Times January 31, 2013, Scholar
57. Beecher, Cookson, “Whole Foods to require labeling of GMO foods,” Food Safety News March 15, 2013, Scholar
58. Gallagher, Julie, “Industry reacts to mandate,” Supermarket News, 2013 (61): 12.Google Scholar

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 550 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd April 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

You have Access

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Labeling of genetically modified food: Closer to reality in the United States?
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Labeling of genetically modified food: Closer to reality in the United States?
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Labeling of genetically modified food: Closer to reality in the United States?
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *