The Introduction of Biotech Foods to the Tort System: Creating a New Duty to Identify
Katharine A. Van Tassel
University of Akron, School of Law
University of Cincinnati Law Review, Vol. 72, p. 1645, 2004
Over sixty percent of the food on grocery store shelves contain bioengineered ingredients. Most consumers are unaware of their heavy exposure to these novel substances as food processors in the United States are not required to identify biotech ingredients on food labels. In spite of the FDA's reassurances that biotech food (also referred to as genetically modified food or "GM food") is safe for human consumption, scientists from around the world warn that the risk of harmful allergic or toxic reactions to these novel substances cannot be discounted. This Article examines whether an unsuspecting consumer who is injured or dies from an allergic or toxic reaction to an undisclosed bioengineered ingredient lurking in food can recover damages through the tort system. The surprising answer is that recovery is unlikely. This is because food processors enjoy an immunity from tort liability which has been unintentionally created by the coupling of the current food regulatory system with current food product liability law. This Article supplies a unique summary of the food regulatory system as it interfaces with current food product liability law, provides a detailed explanation of how these two systems work together to create tort immunity for harm from biotech food, then outlines and evaluates the merits of several potential solutions to this problem.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 61
Keywords: genetically modified food, bioengineered food, genetically engineered food, food tort liability, food allerginicity, bioengineering
Date posted: September 18, 2008 ; Last revised: November 6, 2012