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Labeling of Foods with Bio-engineered Ingredients

some consumers have expressed a desire to be informed on package labels whether a raw or processed food product they are buying contains ingredients produced using biotechnology or genetic modification; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s stated policy on “Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties,” first published in 1992, is geared toward ensuring that relevant scientific, safety and regulatory issues are resolved prior to introducing these new plant varieties into the marketplace; and

WHEREAS, the FDA has held the position that there is no significant nutritional or compositional difference between food produced with ingredients using biotechnology or genetic modification and their conventional counterparts; and

WHEREAS, the American Medical Association has reaffirmed a policy statement that “…there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bio-engineered foods, as a class, and that voluntary labeling is without value unless it is accompanied by focused consumer education.”; and

WHEREAS, meaningful food labeling includes information on nutrient content, chemical composition, potential allergy concerns or potential toxicity concerns; and

WHEREAS, labeling that delivers no pertinent information about the quality and safety of food, and is included due solely to distinguish production methods, is not a meaningful way to enhance consumer choice; and

WHEREAS, a survey conducted in 2012 by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) showed most Americans remain very supportive of existing federal food-labeling laws regarding foods produced with bio-engineered ingredients and that very few cite biotechnology as an information need on a food label; and

WHEREAS, some consumers, food marketers, vendors, retailers and producers have called for mandatory, state-imposed labeling of food products made with bio-engineered ingredients that would run counter to what is required by federal law; and

WHEREAS, a public question on the ballot in the November 2012 election in California (“Proposition 37”) which would have mandated labeling of food products as being produced with bio-engineered ingredients if in fact they were, was defeated, 53 percent to 47 percent by the voters of that state; and

WHEREAS, the FDA already has guidelines, first published in 2001, to direct those producers who wish to voluntarily label food products as either being produced – or not produced – with bioengineered ingredients; and

WHEREAS, the National Organic Program within the USDA excludes the use of bioengineered ingredients as a prerequisite to using the USDA’s “Organic” marketing seal, thus providing another avenue for consumers to be educated about this issue; and

WHEREAS, because of biotechnology, pesticide use in American agriculture between 1996 and 2010 has been reduced by 443 million kilograms in that time span; and

WHEREAS, according to the United Nations, the world population currently stands at more than 7 billion people, and by the year 2050, 9.1 billion people will inhabit the planet, requiring farmers to double the annual amount of food that is produced as compared to today; and

WHEREAS, efforts to feed this ever-expanding population will take all the technological innovation that the world’s agricultural community can muster; and

WHEREAS, this massive increase in demand for food is, in part, addressed and alleviated by U.S. agricultural operators producing crops that are bio-engineered to be drought-, pest- and disease-resistant, without which crop production would be greatly reduced, leading to higher food costs worldwide; and

WHEREAS, pending legislation in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate would create the kind of mandatory labeling of products as being made with bio-engineered products (if the product contains more than 1 percent bio-engineered ingredients).

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 98th State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on February 6-7, 2013, do hereby express our opposition to the bills currently pending in the New Jersey Legislature that aim to mandate labeling of food products as being produced with bio-engineered ingredients.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we believe the current federal regulations regarding voluntary labeling of products as being produced as either using bio-engineered ingredients or not using them is sufficient to educate consumers who are interested in this issue about which products they may wish to buy.