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Labeling Genetically Modified FoodThe Philosophical and Legal Debate$
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Paul Weirich

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195326864

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195326864.001.0001

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Using Food Labels to Regulate Risks

Using Food Labels to Regulate Risks

(p.222) 12 Using Food Labels to Regulate Risks
Labeling Genetically Modified Food

Paul Weirich (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Many food products contain genetically modified corn and soybeans. Corn plants are modified to resist pests, and soybean plants are modified to tolerate herbicides. In the United States food labels need not indicate genetically modified ingredients. In the European Union they must. Scientific data supports the safety of genetically modified food, but consumers may want to exercise caution. What principles should guide a government's regulation of food labels? The popular Precautionary Principle is too single-minded to be a reliable source of sound judgment. This chapter proposes a more thorough principle grounded in decision theory. It relies on cost-benefit analysis formulated comprehensively to assess a regulation's consequences, including reduction of risks. Made comprehensive, cost-benefit analysis absorbs plausible versions of the Precautionary Principle and wisely guides regulation.

Keywords:   risk, caution, government regulation, the Precautionary Principle, cost-benefit analysis

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