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Consumer Reports looks at heated debate over GMO foods

Urvashi Rangan, consumer safety and sustainability director at Consumer Report, joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss the results of the magazine's study.
What you're eating: Consumer Reports investigates GMOs in food 03:47

A new Consumer Reports study investigated genetically modified foods -- products made from organisms with manipulated DNA.

The study revealed surprising results from more than 80 processed foods including cereals, chips and baby formulas.

"If a product didn't have a claim on it, it was likely to contain GMO corn and soy," Consumer Reports director of consumer safety and sustainability Urvashni Rangan said on "CBS This Morning."

There's a great deal of controversy regarding the dangers of consuming food with GMOs.

While tests on animals have given insight into the debate, she said, there have not been enough tests on humans.

"Just like if a food is homogenized, made from concentrate or irradiated ... we think it follows logic that they should be labeled as well," Rangan said.

Three common food labels were discussed in the study: "natural," "USDA Organic" and "Non-GMO Project Verified."


"Unfortunately, there's not a lot of definition behind natural," Rangan said. "64 percent of people in our survey believe that natural means no GMOs."

But she said that's not the case. In fact, there's no standard for foods labeled as "natural."

"And that's just one of the reasons we've been having a campaign to ask consumers and the government to ban the natural labels," Rangan said.

As far as products labeled as "USDA Organic" the results were more promising. Because USDA Organic guidelines legally prohibit the use of GMOs, the tested products also qualified as non-GMO.


Similarly, products with the "Non-GMO Project Verified" seal stayed true to their claim that the products contain no more than .9 percent of genetically modified organisms.

Although the use of genetically modified seeds has grown over the last two decades, the U.S. government still does not require these foods to be proven safe.

On the contrary, Rangan notes that labeling is required in more than 60 countries by the same companies who fight the mandate in this country.

What's the reason between the strikingly different policies?

A Library of Congress report "Restrictions on Genetically Modified Organisms" cites both contrasting opinions between the United States and other countries in both the public sector and governmental agencies of those countries.

In the European Union, for example, there are detailed and stringent policies regarding GMOs that include strict evaluation and safety assessments. In comparison, the U.S. does not have any federal legislation that is specific to GMOs.

However both agree that studies have yet to prove dangers with genetically modified food.

In the European Union, a European Commission Directorate General for Health and Consumers report concluded that no cases of animal or human health problems occurred.

Likewise in the United States, the National Research Council, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Medical Association have all issued studies unable to prove negative effects.

And yet many, including Rangan, still take issue with the lax regulatory policies in the United States.

"They certainly are different enough to get a patent for it," Rangan said. "And if they're different enough to get a patent for it, why aren't they different enough to demonstrate that they're safe?"

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