Van Eenennaam testifies in D.C. on genetically engineered food

Photo: Alison Van Eenennaam
Photo: Alison Van Eenennaam

With lawmakers considering a proposal to require the labeling of genetically engineered food, UC Davis biotechnologist Alison Van Eenennaam told a congressional subcommittee last week that such foods and food ingredients derived from GE crops pose no unique risks compared to plants derived from conventional breeding.

Van Eenennaam

“To date, no material differences in composition or safety of commercialized crops developed using GE have been identified that would justify a label based on the use of GE as a breeding method in the development of the crop variety,” said Van Eenennaam, a Cooperative Extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology, in the Department of Animal Science

“While this conclusion will not satisfy those who consider the insertion or manipulation of genes in a laboratory a material difference per se, the science of food safety does not support mandatory process-based labeling of GE food and, by extension, neither does the Food and Drug Administration.”

Van Eenennaam testified Dec. 10 before a health subcommittee (part of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce) that is examining the FDA’s role in the regulation of genetically modified food ingredients. House of Representatives Bill 4432 would amend the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, administered by the FDA, to require the labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.

“There is broad scientific consensus about the safety of food produced from GE crop varieties and solid data to support that consensus,” Van Eenennaam told the committee.

She spoke in part as the lead author of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology’s April 2014 paper, “The Potential Impacts of Mandatory Labeling for Genetically Engineered Food in the United States.” Among its conclusions: Market-driven voluntary labeling measures are currently providing interested consumers with choices to purchase products produced from crops developed using conventional plant breeding technologies, and mandatory labeling would increase food costs.

Van Eenennaam also cited her own 2014 review paper that examined well-designed animal feeding studies, and the field performance and health trends of more than 100 billion food producing animals that have been consuming feed derived from crops developed using GE over the past decade in the United States, and found no credible evidence of harm.

The full text of Van Eenennaam’s testimony is available online.

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