CALIFORNIA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION HOUSE OF DELEGATES 2002
Resolution 107-02 (Adopted 2-24-02)
Title: Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods
Author: Cindy Russell, M.D.
Introduced by: Cindy Russell, M.D., Robert Gould, M.D.
WHEREAS, Agricultural genetic engineering is a powerful technology that includes the practice of imprecisely inserting novel genetic material into food crops for a variety of reasons; and
WHEREAS, Agricultural genetic engineering is profoundly different than conventional breeding which develops new plant varieties through the process of selection using sexual and asexual reproduction but instead combines isolated genetic material with foreign viral promoter genes and antibiotic resistance marker genes randomly into hosts which are often reproductively incompatible (flounder genes in strawberries to confer resistance to freezing); and
WHEREAS, The science of genetically modifying such foods is still in its early and unpredictable stages of development and has resulted in unintended consequences of genetic contamination in wild plants in addition to a significant amount of non GMO crops, with the potential for other adverse environmental effects; and
WHEREAS, Agricultural genetic engineering can introduce new proteins into food crops not just from known sources of common allergens (e.g., peanuts or shellfish), but from plants of all kinds, animals, bacteria and viruses, whose allergenicity is largely unknown; and
WHEREAS, There remain many uncertainties in the understanding of allergies that have yet to be resolved including the genetic and environmental factors that predispose to food allergy; and
WHEREAS, A systematic assessment of allergenic properties of novel and unknown allergens which may be present is not currently being done as there are no animal models that exist for such testing, and
WHEREAS, there is currently no mandatory pre market or post market safety review of genetically modified food products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine public health or environmental impacts, only a pre market biotechnical notification (PBN) is necessary 120 days prior to market and this may be kept confidential to the public; and
WHEREAS, Consumers International consisting of all major consumers groups in the US and abroad are requesting mandatory labeling for GM foods as a fundamental right to know; and
WHEREAS, considering European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and China require labeling of GM foods for import and export; and
WHEREAS, Widespread use of antibiotic resistance marker genes (e.g. Novartis Bt corn with Ampicillin resistant marker) could exacerbate the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, and consumer labeling would be an important tool in tracking and evaluating any such problem; and
WHEREAS, Over 60% of processed foods in the United States contain genetically modified food products, none of which are labeled to indicate the presence of these potentially allergenic products and which thus cannot be monitored or evaluated; therefore be it
RESOLVED, That the CMA support accurate labeling requirements for foods, including genetically modified foods, by appropriate regulatory agencies.
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WHEREAS, Antibiotic resistance marker genes, commonly used as a link to identify if a desired gene was successfully inserted into DNA, have been left in certain food crops where they pose a risk of transferring resistance to endogenous bacteria via well studied mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer; and
WHEREAS, Genetically modified foods that have been engineered for animal consumption and have lower safety testing have not been separated from those engineered for human consumption, and;
WHEREAS, There has been demonstrated in peer reviewed scientific literature that there are significant potential adverse environmental effects including toxicity to beneficial or harmless insects (monarch butterflys, bees, beetles, lacewings), which could result in reduction of pollination, biodiversity , soil decomposition and soil fertility, as well as increased pest resistance and genetic pollution
WHEREAS, FDA requires labeling for MSG, food coloring and additives, irradiated foods, ,
WHEREAS, considering European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and China require labeling of GM foods and labeling is required for import of GM foods as well and in the interest of promoting fair trade for farmers in the U.S. who grow GM crops for export
WHEREAS, There is no requirement for safety testing or routine testing for allergies Environmental reviews are incomplete, inadequate, and do not apply to all products
WHEREAS, Consumers have a fundamental right to know what they are eating as a matter of taste and preference, religion, and for many health-related reasons
WHEREAS, To protect human health from the effects of unrecognized or uncommon allergens, all genetically engineered food must be labeled: Therefore be it
WHEREAS, The safety testing recommended does not include all of the procedures needed to assess allergies outlined in the report of the new Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Allergenicity of Foods Derived from Biotechnology, nor are there clear criteria to judge the safety of bioengineered foods
WHEREAS, FDA’s explicitly recognizes that genetic engineering is substantially different from traditional breeding in a number of ways that can affect food safety and so requires greater scrutiny of foods developed via biotechnology.
There remain many uncertainties in the understanding of allergies and among the most important issues that have yet to be resolved are the following:
• The properties that confer on proteins allergenic potential
• The characteristics that determine the severity and persistence of food allergy
• The genetic and environmental factors that predispose to food allergy
• The importance of pre-or perinatal exposure to the allergen
• The significance of different routes of exposure
• Whether, and to what extent, food allergy is becoming more common
WHEREAS, Consumers International consisting of all major consumers groups in the US and abroad are requesting mandatory labeling for GM foods as a precautionary measure and polls also find that most consumers say they would buy food with such a label
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