The American Medical Association announced in a statement this week that they saw no health purpose for labeling genetically modified foods -- those made with GMOs (or genetically modified organisms) -- as such.
"There is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods, as a class, and that voluntary labeling is without value unless it is accompanied by focused consumer education," the statement read in part.
But that doesn't mean the AMA is interested in giving cart blanche to food manufacturers. Instead, the organization went on to recommend mandatory pre-market safety testing with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for any modified food. Currently, manufacturers are only encouraged to consult with the FDA in advance of bringing a GMO product to market.
"We also urge the FDA to remain alert to new data on the health consequences of bioengineered foods," AMA board member Dr. Patrice Harris told the Los Angeles Times in a statement.
The position has thrown a wrench in the plans of several consumer groups that support GMO labeling -- most notably in California, where a proposed labeling law will appear on ballots in November.
Advocacy groups like Consumers Union and the Truth In Labeling Campaign commended the organization for supporting pre-market testing, but remained disappointed that they did not support mandatory labeling. Wrote Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union:
At present, FDA does not require premarket safety assessment of GE foods. Studies in the scientific literature have suggested that genetic engineering could introduce new food allergens, increase the levels of known allergens, raise or lower nutrient levels and have adverse effects on the animals that eat such foods.
Still, as the Los Angeles Times reported, a 2004 investigation from the National Academy of Sciences into the relative regulation and safety testing of genetically modified and conventional foods found that either method can result in problems like food allergens and pathogens.
“All foods, whether or not they are genetically engineered, carry potentially hazardous substances or pathogenic microbes and must be properly and prudently assessed to ensure a reasonable degree of safety," read the report, according to the Times.