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5-minutes: Chewing over GMOs with the Snack Food Association

SFA head: ‘A little term called class action suits’ is prompting GMO removal

By Kacey Culliney+

13-Mar-2014
Last updated on 14-Mar-2014 at 11:52 GMT

Tom Dempsey, president and CEO of the SFA
Tom Dempsey, president and CEO of the SFA
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Genetically modified organisms are safe and there is a need and place for them in the market, but manufacturers are removing them for fear of class actions, says the CEO of the Snack Food Association.

Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com at the SFA’s own annual industry event Snaxpo 2014 in Dallas, Texas, Tom Dempsey said that the GMO issue was two-pronged. There was the science of GMOs that had been painted in a bad light by PR campaigns and then the marketing and labeling challenges of GMO products because of no single labeling solution.

Dempsey said the PR-aspect of GMOs was "very tricky" to deal with but education about the need and good points of genetic modification remained crucial and industry must engage in this over the next year.

Asked why manufacturers in their masses continued to remove GMOs, despite the science and 'need' for such ingredients, he said it was being done in fear of class action lawsuits.

“Clearly in a litigious society that we have right now, whether you’re right or wrong that litigation costs hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. So if you can do it, if you can in effect make your end product GMO-free at an attractive price then it’s a benefit to do it,” he said.

However, Dempsey said there would always be a challenge in producing foods at the level needed, safely and at a cost people can afford without scientific intervention.

‘It shouldn’t be any different from organic’

Asked how snack manufacturers were going to be able to educate consumers on the safety of GMOs after taking them out of products, Dempsey said it shouldn’t be any different to organic, where non-organic weren’t labeled and were just regular products.

He said that there was room for both GMO (regular) and non-GMO products on the market but the future should involve the FDA defining what a genetically modified product is and US-wide labeling regulations for those products.

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