skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Bill To Label GMO Food — Dr. Bronner And Biologist Weigh In

Evening Edition

Aired 4/29/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Steven Briggs, Distinguished Professor, Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, UC San Diego

David Bronner, CEO, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap


New legislation has been introduced in Washington that would require labeling of GMO, or genetically modified, food. It mirrors California's Proposition 37 measure, which voters rejected last year.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act so "consumers can make informed choices about what they eat."

Supporters say 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of genetically modified food, but the measure faces strong opposition from food manufacturers and some members of the scientific community.

“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families," Boxer said in a released statement. “This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers, fishermen and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more — not less — information about the food they buy.”

Steve Briggs, biology professor at UC San Diego says he was against California's Proposition 37 because it was not "honest." He says a lot of push for GMO labeling comes from the organic industry and that it's political. Briggs says labeling will push the cost of food up making organic food more competitive.

Manufacturers do who do not use GMO ingredients are already labeling their food, says Briggs. "If people want to eat GMO-free, they can. If people want labeling of how the food is made they can do it voluntary, like Kosher foods are labeled."

Briggs says "everyone shouldn't have to pay more for labeling if they don't care if their food has GMOs."

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.


Avatar for user 'sdsavage'

sdsavage | April 29, 2013 at 12:58 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

I just heard the interview with Steve Briggs and David Bronner. Bronner said dozens of things that are distorted, misleading or just plain wrong. Briggs countered some of it with real information, but many egregiously false statements went unchallenged.

There is an extremely broad and international scientific consensus that genetic engineering of crops is no more risky than conventional breeding. The safety record for this technology has been perfect. There actually have been hundreds of independent studies which confirm the safety. Bronner is in a business that benefits from irrational fears and non-scientific thinking. Even so he should be ashamed to have propagated this collection of mis-truths.

Steve Savage, Ph.D. (Agricultural scientist)

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | April 29, 2013 at 1:36 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

We don't know the LONG-TERM effects of GMOs, and, in the meantime while this new technology is being fully vetted, we the consumers have the right to know what we are eating.

We have labeling for organic foods, yet non-organic foods still do a brisk business. People who want to eat organic pay attention to the organic labels and those who find no value in it don't. Why can't it be the same for GMOs?

It's the food industry who are being fear mongers when they say there is something wrong with letting consumers know what they are eating and making up their own minds.

Even if no studies have found health consequences now, I prefer to wait longer until more long-term studies can be done and I have the right to know if what I am buying contains GMOs. I don't want to be the processed food industry’s guinea pig.

The EU has GMO food labeling (so I'm afraid you Dr. Savage are misleading in your extremely broad international concensus), but here in the U.S. we are trying to battle decades of being brainwashed by the processed food industry and billions of dollars in special interests these food conglomerates are pouring into keeping consumers in the dark so they can make more money.

When it comes to stuff we put in our bodies, the more information we have the better. Why not put the GMO labels on and those who care will read them and those who don't mind eating genetically modified food can ignore them.

It's not JUST a health issue, it's a CONSUMER RIGHTS issue, too.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | April 29, 2013 at 2:45 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

sdsavage, (Ph.D.?) (Agricultural scientist?),

Please tell us what makes organic food "a business that benefits from irrational fears and non-scientific thinking."

Thank you,

Rev. Amb. Sen. Jed I. Knight, PhD, KBE, DVM, MP, PharmD, Esq, Gen. (Ret.)
Senior Master Scientist (SMS)

NOTICE: Please observe that I have lots of pre- and post-nominal letters, that surround my stylish name (that in no way infringes upon copyrights held by Lucasfilm Co., LLC, Ltd.), as these titles of great honorific quality obviously indicate unsurpassed ability to analyze and respond in a superior and magnificently eloquent manner for the selfless good of human and non-human kind.

Please think carefully before you respond.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | April 29, 2013 at 3 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

PDSD, why do you not assume that foods who do not label themselves as GMO-free contain the things you seek to avoid? Is there a shortage of products that meet your dietary restrictions? It is certainly simple to find "organic" food for sale. Would not a voluntary label on specially grown food that meets your needs be simpler than forcing every processed product on the market to have a "this product may contain GMO" type label? Doesn't it make more sense to label the exceptions and not the average product?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'DaleProp37'

DaleProp37 | April 29, 2013 at 3:19 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

I support Labeling GMOs because I believe we have the right to know what’s in the food we’re eating and feeding to our families – we deserve an informed choice.

Genetically Modified/Manipulated/Mutated Organisms (GMOs) are manmade plants and animals created in a laboratory destined for human consumption. GMOs contain the genes of foreign species . . . a genetic manipulation that cannot occur in nature (only in the laboratory). The FDA does not require GMOs to be tested for long term impacts on human health. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, there are 65 documented health risks associated with eating genetically engineered food. There are numerous independent scientific studies from around the world that raise serious doubt on the safety of GMOs and the toxic pesticides they produce internally or absorb from the toxic chemicals intentionally applied by the farmer. Learn for yourself about GMO Myths and Truths by reading the summary report or watching . I do not believe it is ethical to be putting an unproven technology into the food we feed our children solely for the financial benefit of the world's largest biotech, chemical and junk food manufacturers.

Over 60 countries now require labels on Genetically Engineered food, and many of these also have severe restrictions or bans against GMO food production or sale. Countries with mandatory labeling include Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and all of the countries in the European Union. Some of the countries with severe restrictions or bans against GMO food production or sale are Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Ireland, the Philippines, Australia, Peru and Japan. The U.S. and Canada are two of the only developed nations in the world without GMO labeling due to the powerful lobbying influence of the industries that profit from producing and using GMOs.

The biotech and junk food industries don’t believe consumers in the US deserve the same level of protection and information as citizens in other nations around the world. I believe this is because labeling the ingredients that are genetically engineered would result in monumental consumer rejection once awareness of GMOs are revealed to the uninformed masses. Consumer rejection of GMOs threatens the profits of the companies that manufacture and use GMOs as well as institutions that conduct research on behalf of the biotech industry. I believe some university scientists are against labeling GMOs because their lively hood is threatened if a loss of research funding occurred because of reduced consumer demand for the products they help develop for the biotech industry. I won’t be trusting members of a scientific community that is funded by an industry that creates toxic substances to present an unbiased opinion of these products.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'DaleProp37'

DaleProp37 | April 29, 2013 at 3:20 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

The most common GMOs in the US are corn, soy, canola, beet sugar, cotton, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and squash (zucchini and yellow). GMOs may be hidden in common processed food ingredients such as: Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins and Yeast Products.

Packaged foods already have labels showing nutrition, allergy information and other facts consumers want to know. Labeling GMOs will make it easier for consumers to know if the food they buy contains GMOs without having to make sense of a long list of unfamiliar ingredients.

Visit any of the following websites for more information about the medical, environmental, political and social issues associated with artificially Genetically Engineered food (GMOs) . . .

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | April 29, 2013 at 4:46 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Benz, I do buy organic as much as I can, but I would also like to know when I pick-up other items if they have GMOs in them or not.

I don't see why the food industry acts like labeling is a negative thing. Labels are titled with "nutritional information" - some of this may be bad like sodium or trans fat, and some may be good like vitamins and minerals. I want to know it all - so I have the clearest picture of what is going into my body.

The food industry are hypocrites when it comes to labeling.

They care about money, not public health.

if something is "low in fat" or "contains vitamin C" they have no problem displaying that in large, colorful lettering that you can't miss, but if someone wants them to note whether or not they contain GMOs on the back label along with the rest of the information they get angry.

They care about money, not public health.

if something is "low in fat" or "contains vitamin C" they have no problem displaying that in large, colorful lettering that you can't miss, but if someone wants them to note whether or not they contain GMOs on the back label along with the rest of the information they get angry.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'megelb27'

megelb27 | April 29, 2013 at 5 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

California voters were solidly in favor of labeling GMOs until Monsanto launched it's campaign to convince people that food costs would rise. But what is the explanation for costs rising? Adding GMO labeling to food involves a tiny change to an already existing label. General Mills (to name one) voluntarily made many changes to food packaging to advertise the use of "whole grains" in its products. I do not recall this having any affect on the cost of these products.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | April 29, 2013 at 10:56 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

The large processed food giants and their lobbyists have battled changes whenever they are suggested or debated. They don't like being mandated to list amount of sodium, calories, etc., yet no evidence exists to show that when they were required to do so costs of food became prohibitively expensive.

Megelb27 is correct, Monsanto used unfounded fear mongering regarding prices skyrocketing to scare the public in defeating the proposition.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | April 30, 2013 at 7:07 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

That is exactly what I am trying to point out PDSD. The default assumption that foods not labeled as being free of the most common agricultural practices should be the norm.
If you want stuff that is grown without pesticide, or fertilizer, or cages or GMO or whatever else you are trying to avoid the simplest way to differentiate is to allow the producers of those specialty products declare "GMO Free!" in that large colorful lettering you mentioned.
I'm sorry but I'm still missing how that would not solve this problem while at the same time being simpler to implement.

There was an old cartoon about warning labels that went something like:
"CAUTION! This product contains actual matter; any contact with anti-matter will cause an energy release that may be harmful or deadly."

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'zenmomma3'

zenmomma3 | April 30, 2013 at 7:30 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Kosher is a bad analogy to GMO. Kosher is an extra method that they use which differs from the processing of the exact same food. GMO completely alters the food and inserts a foreign protein into the food. The person that does the altering should label. And in this case it is the people who make GMOs and the food manufacturers who buy them.

The fact is that GMOs an dGlyphosate which is sprayed ON GMOs have been linked to serious health risks.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Bwgirl'

Bwgirl | April 30, 2013 at 8:33 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Steve Briggs is lying through his teeth when he says there's not one incidence of illness caused by these GMO's. High Fructose Corn Syrup which is a product of these GMO's is found to cause extremely high cholesterol levels, diabetes and extreme obesity. From personal experience I can verify that; as well as, acidosis in my joints and inflamation. I was was so crippled up I was walking on a cane for several years before I got off of the HFCS!

I lost 50 lbs getting off of the HFCS, couldn't walk or exercise because my joints were so bad. Took about a year off of the HFCS to be able to walk normal. My cholesterol levels are still high but not as bad as they were.

And by the way, this is the same thing that happens to cattle in feed lots on genetically modified corn. If they don't butcher them quickly enough they die in a couple of months.

Thank God I didn't have a steady diet of corn or I would have been dead already!!! But maybe that's what they are pushing for?

HFCS and Corn Syrup in different forms are polluting the products found on our grocery store shelves. We are almost at such a saturation point that you can't just walk into the store and expect to find products in most categories safe to eat. You now have to hop from one store to another just to find enough food without the HFCS in it to complete your grocery list.

Which burns me up! It's like a mine field out there!

Most american farmers that use round up don't get out in the fields and work with the plants after spraying that stuff but those in foreign countries who do come down sick.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'healthreform'

healthreform | April 30, 2013 at 10:15 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

It is too late the food has already been poisoned with GMO See here

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | April 30, 2013 at 10:36 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

BWG, do you believe the detrimental effects of a similarly large unmodified HFCS intake would have been different? HFCS is a highly refined product. It seems unlikely that the composition of the syrup differs between unmodified and GMO corn, but could you please cite an investigation that addresses this?
Maybe I'm misreading your statements but it sounds analogous to complaining about the uncleanliness of the water in which one is drowning. The issue isn't the extra pee, it's the overabundance of water.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'sdsavage'

sdsavage | May 2, 2013 at 12:52 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

The consensus on GMO safety is within the global scientific community. Europe and Japan have labeling laws not because their scientists have come to any different conclusion but because politics trumps science there. None of the food is actually labeled. The manufacturers simply substitute more expensive ingredients so they don't have to label. Their animals are fed plenty of GMO crops but do not have to be labeled.

As Briggs said, anyone who does not want to trust the science already has the ability to buy organic or GMO-free voluntarily labeled foods.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'mineolas'

mineolas | May 6, 2013 at 2:25 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't see the problem with full GMO disclosure on consumer products. I'd like to see a ratings system for packaging as well.

Nor do I see why GMOs should be exempt from disclosure or be allowed to fly under the radar just because giant destructive multinationals desire make our food into evolutionary wildcards/proprietary in unprecedented & potentially harmful ways. Perhaps there are helpful instances as well, but Monsanto's disgusting abuse of small farmers really makes one withhold benefit of the doubt. And who knew that more than half the products in your pantry are already compromised. I think the real more truthful argument biotech is trying to make is that the horse is already out of the barn.

It's your Brave New World- we're just forced to live in it. I am not sure that the rise in immunological disease like the onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis & other conditions aren't exacerbated by a decline in quality & integrity of our foodstuffs.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | May 6, 2013 at 3:18 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Bwgirl so you mean stuffing your face with obscene amounts of sugar can cause obesity? Who knew????

( | suggest removal )