Oregon Right to Know

We have the right to know what's in our food!

Consumers Union supports Ballot Initiative #44

Statement of Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Senior Scientist


There is global agreement that genetic engineering (GE) differs from conventional breeding, and that safety assessments should be completed for all GE foods, including crops and animals, prior to marketing. The human safety problems that may arise from GE include introduction of new allergens or increased levels of naturally occurring allergens, of plant toxins, and changes in nutrition. There may also be unintended effects. Codex Alimentarius, the food safety standards organization of the United Nations, has developed a set of documents on this topic.

Unlike other developed countries, the US does not require genetically engineered foods to be proven safe before they can go on the market, despite significant safety concerns. A review of the scientific literature shows there are still open questions about the safety of genetically engineered foods, with independent studies finding some evidence of adverse effect, while other studies, often funded by industry or performed by industry-affiliated scientists, tend to find no safety problem. But even if all reasonable safety testing were required, certain individuals could still have unusual allergic responses that would not be detected beforehand. Finally there can be unexpected effects-just as there are sometimes to pharmaceutical products, despite extensive premarket testing. For all these reasons, it is important to label genetically engineered food, so negative effects can be noticed and identified, and so consumers who simply want to avoid these news foods can do so if they wish.

This legislation requires all manufacturers to properly label their foods when they contain genetically engineered ingredients.  This will provide Oregonians with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about the foods they purchase and consume, and to identify any potential health problems that may arise from consumption of such foods.

The bottom line is that genetic engineering is different than conventional breeding and raise potential safety issues so that foods derived from genetic engineering should be labeled, both because consumers have a right-to-know what they are eating and to identify any potential health problems that may arise from consumption of such foods.

Consumers Union strongly supports passage of Ballot Initiative #44.

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