Tag Archives GMO

Aaron Carroll, a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, argues in a New York Times editorial that “panic-du-jour” about unhealthy foods encourages people to unnecessarily live “in terror or struggling to avoid certain foods altogether." Carroll asserts that the repeated condemnation of various food ingredients—including fat, cholesterol, meat, monosodium glutamate, genetically modified organisms and gluten—“shows how susceptible we are to misinterpreting scientific research and how slow we are to update our thinking when better research becomes available.” For example, fewer than one percent of Americans have a wheat allergy or celiac disease, Carroll states, but at least one in five regularly chooses gluten-free foods. “Gluten-free diets can lead to deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamin B, folate and iron. Compared with regular bagels, gluten-free ones can have a quarter more calories, two and a half times the fat, half the fiber and twice the sugar. They also cost more,” he…

Researchers have reportedly found that consumers are unsure what "natural," “organic” and “Non-GMO Project Verified” mean when the phrases appear on food labels. Konstantinos G. Syrengelas et al., "Is the Natural Label Misleading? Examining Consumer Preferences for Natural Beef," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, October 2017; Brandon R. McFadden, et al., “Effects of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard: Willingness to Pay for Labels that Communicate the Presence or Absence of Genetic Modification,” Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, October 2017. To investigate a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture asserting that "natural" labeling misleads consumers, researchers conducted an online choice experiment to determine whether including a definition of "natural" on a label deterred or encouraged study participants to pay a premium for steak. The researchers apparently found that the participants were unwilling to pay a premium if they either identified themselves as familiar with the definition of "natural" or if they…

Chinese scientists have reported that they successfully created 12 genetically modified pigs with about 24 percent less body fat than average pigs. Qiantao Zheng, et al., “Reconstitution of UCP1 using CRISPR/Cas9 in the white adipose tissue of pigs decreases fat deposition and improves thermogenic capacity,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 17, 2017. According to the researchers, pigs lack a gene called UCP1 that allows animals to regulate body temperature in cold weather. Using gene-editing technique CRISPR-Cas9, the scientists created and implanted modified pig embryos into female pigs. Tests on the piglets reportedly showed they were much better at regulating their body temperatures, which could potentially reduce farmers' heating and feeding costs and prevent pig deaths in cold weather. NPR further explored the use of gene editing in food production, discussing the Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture's campaign to dispel fears associated with food products created using…

A Massachusetts federal court has dismissed a putative class action against Conagra Brands that alleged the company’s Wesson cooking oil was not “100% natural” because it is extracted from grains grown from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), ruling the plaintiff had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Lee v. Conagra Brands, Inc., No. 17-11042 (D. Mass., entered October 25, 2017). Taking judicial notice of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance, the court noted that the agency has “not attempted to restrict the use of the term 'natural' except for added color, synthetic substances, and flavors." In addition, the court held that according to FDA guidance, Conagra is not required to disclose on its labels the use of GMO plants. The plaintiff alleged a single count for deceptive business practices, but the court ruled that because the label conformed to FDA guidelines, it was not “unfair…

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the court to resolve a split among circuit courts on the question of whether putative class action plaintiffs must propose an administratively feasible method to identify potential class members. Conagra Brands, Inc. v. Briseno, No. 16-1221 (U.S., denial entered October 10, 2017). The case centers on a consumer's allegation that Conagra Brands, Inc.'s Wesson cooking oil is mislabeled as "100% Natural" because it contains genetically modified ingredients. Conagra appealed a Ninth Circuit decision that joined the Sixth and Seventh Circuits in holding that independent administrative feasibility is not needed for a class action to succeed. The Second, Third, Fourth and Eleventh Circuits have allowed the additional requirement, which companies have used to argue that their putative class actions should be dismissed.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has determined that member states cannot invoke the “precautionary principle” to restrict the cultivation and sale of crops developed from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) if the European Commission has not determined that the crops “are likely to constitute a serious risk to human health, animal health or the environment.” Case C-111/16, Italy v. Fidenato (E.C.J., entered September 13, 2017). The ruling responded to a request from an Italian court overseeing the prosecution of three farmers accused of growing GMO maize in violation of Italian law. The district court judge stayed the criminal proceedings to ask the ECJ whether Italy had the authority to ban the crop despite EC approval of its cultivation and sale. In 2013, Italy asked the European Commission to adopt emergency measures allowing member states to apply a “precautionary principle” and implement risk-management measures where “the possibility of harmful effects on…

Following a Center for Food Safety lawsuit seeking information on requirements in the 2016 Federal Bioengineered Food Safety Disclosure Standards Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a study identifying potential challenges to implementation of electronic disclosure of genetically modified organism (GMO) content on food labels. The study considered whether consumers or retailers would have sufficient access to smartphones or broadband internet to easily obtain ingredient information, purportedly finding that about 85 percent of consumers experience technical challenges scanning digital links such as QR codes and less than 40 percent of small retailers provide in-store Wi-Fi access.

A consumer has filed a projected class action alleging Boar's Head Provisions Co. Inc. misleadingly markets its cheeses as "natural" despite containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Forsher v. Boar's Head Provisions Co. Inc., No. 17-4974 (N.D. Cal., filed August 25, 2017). The complaint asserts that GMOs are "not natural" and that "consumers do not expect [GMOs] to be present in foods labeled 'natural'"; further, "reasonable consumers do not believe there are any differences between foods that are labeled 'natural' and those that are labeled 'organic.' Reasonable consumers believe that 'organic' foods do not contain GMOs, and that foods labeled 'natural' are likewise free of such substances." The plaintiff seeks an injunction, restitution, damages and attorney's fees for alleged violations of state consumer-protection statutes as well as unjust enrichment and intentional misrepresentation.

The Center for Food Safety has filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to proceed with the studies and public comment required to implement the 2016 Federal Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standards Act. Ctr. for Food Safety v. Perdue, No. 17-4967 (N.D. Cal., filed August 25, 2017). Passed by Congress in 2016, the act will require food producers to disclose the presence of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The complaint contends that USDA has failed to conduct the studies required by the act to inform its rulemaking, including a specific Congressional mandate to study whether digital or electronic disclosures would be an acceptable alternative to package labeling. If the agency finds no significant barriers to consumer access, food manufacturers could provide a QR code, website link or toll-free number for disclosures. However, the complaint alleges that USDA missed the July 29, 2017, deadline for completion of…

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced a bill that would require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) salmon and independent scientific review of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's environmental assessment of GE fish produced for human consumption. “The primary purpose of this bill is to ensure that consumers have all the facts and can make an informed decision when they are purchasing salmon. There’s a huge difference between ‘Frankenfish’ and the wild, healthy, sustainably-caught, delicious real thing—and I want to make sure folks are aware of that," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in a July 14, 2017, press release. "I will not accept that this ‘fake fish’ will be sold in stores without clear labeling.”   Issue 641

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