Battle flares in fight over genetically modified foods

The debate over genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is a thorny one. On one side are many scientists and research organizations -- some of which receive financial support from companies that profit from GMO seeds, crops and animals -- who claim that genetically modified agriculture is safe. On the other are critics who say that testing of GMOs has been too limited.

One front in the dispute lies outside the laboratory, centering instead on how GMO products are marketed and regulated. Opponents in the U.S. have pushed for labeling of products with GMO ingredients.

Washington State's Prop. 522 could spark national debate on GMO food labeling
 The stakes for food companies are high. A labeling requirement would raise packaging costs, while even determining which ingredients where modified would likely prove challenging. Such companies poured $34.5 million into advertising efforts to defeat a 2012 ballot initiative in California calling for GMO-labeling. Big bucks also went into fighting a GMO labeling law last year in Washington state.

Agrochemical giants including DuPont (DD), Syngenta (SYT) and Agrigenetics recently filed suit to to stop enforcement of new law in on the island of Kauai in Hawaii limiting the use of GMO crops and pesticides. 

GMO Labeling
Despite such pushback, the campaign to regulate GMOs is gaining ground. Whole Foods (WFM) has said that by 2018 all of its vendors in the U.S. and Canad must label their products to indicate GMO ingredients. That could affect 100,000 suppliers that do business with the chain. General Mills (GIS), which has donated money to oppose GMO product-labeling, also has said it will end use of GMO ingredients in original Cheerios

The upshot? Even if science fails to resolve the debate over the use of GMOs, consumers -- and the big corporations eager to please them -- may have the final say.