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AMA refuses resolution for labeling GMOs

AMA last to know about harm from GMOs
Nancy Swanson

Once again, the American Medical Association (AMA) has sided with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Monsanto by refusing to adopt a resolution for federal requirements to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs). During the AMA's annual meeting in Chicago last week (June 7-11), Resolution #517, Genetically Modified Organisms Labeling, was brought to the floor by Michigan delegate Dr. Dom Frederico. The resolution, authored by Dr. Jayne Courts of Grand Rapids, was passed by the Michigan State Medical Association House of Delegates and was then referred to the AMA committee for consideration by the delegates at the national meeting last week.

The reference committee hears the pro and con arguments and makes a recommendation to the entire house of delegates. In this case, the reference committee suggested non adoption of the Michigan resolution and nobody in the house of delegates spoke to disagree with their recommendation. There was a representative from the FDA present at the meeting. Except for the Michigan delegate who presented the resolution, no one testified for it. The opposition argued that there is a lack of scientific basis for labeling because there is no proof that GMOs cause harm. It seems that the AMA will be the last to know. How can they provide proper care when they refuse to acknowledge the problem?

The AMA claims that they support research into the unintended, adverse effects of GMOs, however their stand was and continues to be that the federal regulating agencies are doing a fine job [H-480.958 amended June 2012, links to a pdf document available to members only-links from other websites are broken]”

The AMA document on bio-engineered food states that there should be mandatory, pre-market, systematic safety assessments of bio-engineered foods. The AMA seems to be under the misapprehension that this has been done. In fact, the FDA gave GMOs a free pass by declaring them “substantially equivalent” to non-genetically engineered crops and the FDA has never required such safety studies. But the AMA also says, “the FDA’s requirement that any material difference between bioengineered foods and their traditional counterparts be disclosed in labeling, are [sic] effective in ensuring the safety of bioengineered food.”

Is this some sort of bait and switch? The AMA says that the FDA's requirement that material differences in GMOs must be disclosed is sufficient for safety. The FDA says there are no material differences, thus GMO ingredients need not be disclosed. Then, the grocery manufacturers take these circular arguments and make them into dogma, as in this fine example from James Curry of the Northwest Food Processors Association in his letter of February 12, 2014 to the Honorable Val Hoyle, Chair of the Oregon House Rules Committee . Curry claims that any state labeling laws “would be in conflict with federal regulations by misleading consumers ...” and “According to the American Medical Association (AMA H-480.958 Bioengineered Crops and Foods): '(a) There is no evidence that unique hazards exist' and '...there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods...' This statement is backed by all of the major scientific and regulatory bodies including the FDA ...” Round and round and round we go.

Whom does the AMA work for?

According to Forbes, only 17% of doctors in the US belong to the AMA. Why is their membership so low? A recent survey reveals that 89% of physicians believe "the AMA does not speak for me." So why does the AMA still have so much clout? It turns out that they own the coding system used for reimbursement of medical services from Medicare. This is a government-granted monopoly for which they receive royalties. In fact, they earn more than twice as much from this than they do from membership dues. “When the AMA gets twice as much through the government as it gets from its own members, we can hardly be surprised that the AMA today is more a tool of Washington’s interests than those of doctors,” said Avik Roy in another Forbes article. These billing codes are also used by the AMA to control how medicine is practiced. For example, codes do not even exist for many integrative treatments and therapies.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the AMA invited a representative from the FDA to attend the meeting where Resolution 517 was on the table. They all have each others' back, but who has ours?

Full text of AMA Resolution 517 below:



Resolution: 517

Introduced by: Michigan

Subject: Genetically Modified Organisms Labeling

Referred to: Reference Committee E (Jay A. Gregory, MD, Chair)

Whereas, Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants or animals that have been genetically altered with DNA from bacteria, viruses, or other plants or animals that are often engineered for herbicide tolerance; and

Whereas, The validity of the research for GMOs has been questionable, including concerns about the source of the studies and concerns that studies utilizing GMOs have not been performed in humans; and

Whereas, Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe and have imposed significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs in more than 60 countries around the world including Australia, Japan, and all countries in the European Union; and

Whereas, Food allergies are increasing in incidence, and some clinicians are concerned that GMOs may be contributing to this increase, which are present in about 80 percent of conventional processed food in the US; and

Whereas, Considerable concern has been expressed by consumers about the desire to know when they are purchasing genetically modified foods or foods containing genetically modified ingredients; and

Whereas, Two states, California and Washington, narrowly defeated bills to mandate labeling of GMO-containing foods with the help of large campaign contributions from companies with clear financial conflicts of interest; and

Whereas, Current voluntary labeling has rarely been utilized; and

Whereas, Several organizations have been fighting against clear labeling in spite of their statements that GMOs pose no health risks including the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food; and

Whereas, Organic farmers must compete against large corporations such as Monsanto, which controls nearly 90 percent of the GMO crop market, and deserve to have the distinction made between their products and GMO-containing products; and

Whereas, All of us should have the ability to make informed choices about the foods and products we consume; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association ask the World Health Organization to review its current support of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), specifically reviewing any potential conflicts of interest in the current research and the lack of human research, which leaves unanswered questions regarding safety (Directive to Take Action); and be it further

RESOLVED, That our AMA pursue and endorse a national law requiring the clear labeling of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

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