Washington Law Review


This Article evaluates the free speech implications of laws requiring that GE foods be labeled and concludes that such regulations would meet all First Amendment requirements for compelled commercial speech. Part I traces the history of food labeling in the United States, the advent of genetic engineering, and the application of that technology in agriculture and the food industry. Part II evaluates the scope of commercial free speech and the appropriate test to be applied in determining whether a GE food labeling law would violate the First Amendment. Part III examines the impacts of an agricultural and food system increasingly dominated by GE crops. It explains how controversy over a single issue, whether GE foods pose a potential risk to human health, has stunted the debate over whether mandatory labeling serves a useful purpose by diverting attention from other material impacts. It concludes that greater consumer and public awareness of the adverse environmental, economic, cultural, and social impacts of GE foods would serve a substantial government interest.

First Page