Hamburg worries mandatory GMO labeling could send the wrong message

  • During her tenure as FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg defended the Agency’s position that it is inappropriate to require labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients without evidence of material differences between bioengineered foods and their conventional counterparts.
  • On June 6, 2016, Hamburg, who served as Commissioner from May 2009 to March 2015, again addressed the topic of GMO labeling.  Commissioner Hamburg described mandatory GMO labeling as “particularly troubling,” because it could send the message that GMOs are dangerous.  Hamburg reasserted “the need to have science-based approaches in terms of what the government would require as mandatory labeling,” particularly in an area of science most consumers “don’t fully understand.” While Hamburg stated she believes people who want to avoid consuming GMO-containing foods should be able to do so, she indicated that voluntary labeling can meet this need. [Remarks begin at 47:00]
  • Commissioner Hamburg’s concerns that the U.S. “not enter a period of science denialism out of fear” echo the arguments of others opposed to mandatory GMO labeling, including the American Medical Association, which has stated it is in favor of “FDA’s science-based labeling policies [which] do not support special labeling,” and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which stated that “mandating [a GMO] label can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers.” Nevertheless, consumer interest in mandatory labeling of GMO-containing foods remains high.