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GMO Food Labeling by the Numbers

Bills mandating labeling of foods containing ingredients from genetically modified organisms are popping up in state legislatures around the country.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • According to USDA estimates, at least 90 percent of corn, canola, soy beans and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered.
  • An estimated 70-80 percent of processed food in American grocery stores contains ingredients derived from GMOs.
  • A recent New York Times poll found that 93 percent of Americans want food containing genetically-modified ingredients to say so on the label.
  • A 2013 review of 1,783 scientific studies found no evidence of significant health risks.
  • According to the Center for Food Safety, 64 nations require some form of food labeling that identifies ingredients from GMOs. But the FDA has declined to require GMO food labeling, putting the issue in states’ hands.
  • According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, GMO food labeling bills have been introduced in 32 states in the past two years.
  • There were 5 bills introduced in Massachusetts last year. One – a rewrite of H.813  – has been favorably passed out of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. Additional bills are still before the Joint Committee on Public Health. (Note: This reflects new information and a correction. We originally reported, erroneously, that H.808 had passed committee.)
  • Two states – Connecticut and Maine – have passed GMO food labeling laws. However, both laws include triggers, meaning they won’t go into effect until a specified number of other states has passed similar legislation.

Of course, there are countless open questions related to GMO labeling. For example, what happens if multiple states pass disparate or contradictory labeling laws? And how much will be spent on legal challenges to state labeling laws?

There are those on both sides of the GMO issue who say there’s one solution to the whole issue: a federal GMO labeling law.

Steve Junker and Dr. Heather Goldstone discuss science topics every Tuesday on All Things Considered. Audio of this week's conversation on GMO labeling in Massachusetts is posted below - give it a listen.

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