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John Block: GMO Labeling

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

Yes – We now have legislation to deal with the GMO labeling question.

Without the legislation, all the states could have required different labels on their food products.  A patchwork national plan like that would have cost consumers a lot more money for their food.

However, the battle is not over.  The legislation gives the Department of Agriculture the responsibility to write the rules, and there is a lot of flexibility left to USDA.  The legislation will not take effect for two years.

There are some serious questions that the Secretary of Agriculture will have to decide.  Will processed foods containing refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or soybean oil have to be labeled as GMO?  Sugar, corn, and soybeans are genetically engineered.

But maybe they won’t have to be labeled since, after processing, there are no traces remaining of the gene altered material.  The Food and Drug Administration says – no need to label.

The National Milk Producers Federation has concerns because they use an enzyme to make cheese, and it is genetically engineered.

One important point contained in the law states that meat and dairy products need not be labeled even though the pigs, chickens, and cows were fed GMO feed.  Just eating GMO feed does not make the meat and milk genetically modified.

Food companies will have a lot of decisions to make because the law provides three different ways the consumer can scan a product to determine if it is genetically engineered.

Requiring food companies to do all of this is absolute nonsense.  Food labels are supposed to convey information relevant to health, safety, and nutrition.  All of the science in the world tells us that GMO foods are just as safe as non-GMO foods.  Why are we requiring all of this?  Consumers will just be more confused, and for no good reason.  We can only hope that after the two year process of implementing this legislation, consumers will come to realize they have already eaten their weight in GE foods with no ill effects.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit