U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced this past week the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, legislation that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clearly label genetically engineered (GE) foods so that consumers can make informed choices about what they eat.
Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are cosponsors of the Senate bill.
Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Peter Welch (D-VT), James Moran (D-VA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Don Young (R-AK), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), George Miller (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Ann Kuster (D-NH) are cosponsors of the House bill.
“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Senator Boxer said. “This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers, fishermen and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more – not less – information about the food they buy.”
“When American families purchase food, they deserve to know if that food was genetically engineered in a laboratory,” Representative DeFazio said. “This legislation is supported by consumer’s rights advocates, family farms, environmental organizations, and businesses, and it allows consumers to make an informed choice.”
“Despite the prevalence of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in grocery stores and prepared foods, it remains difficult if not impossible for consumers to determine if the foods they eat contain GMOs,” Representative Polis said. “This labeling bill is about empowering consumers: consumers can chose to eat or not eat GMOs, or to pay more or less for GMOs. I believe consumers have a right to know what they are eating so they can make their own informed food choices. I am proud to be working toward more informative food labels.”
“Food is a basic necessity in our everyday lives, and people have a right to know what’s in the food that we eat,” Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said. “I have long been an advocate of labeling food containing GE products because consumers deserve honest, transparent information about their food. This legislation puts consumers first and will empower them to make informed choices for themselves and their families.”
According to surveys, more than 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of genetically engineered foods. In fact, many consumers are surprised to learn that GE foods are not already labeled.
Currently, the FDA requires the labeling of over 3,000 ingredients, additives and processes, but the agency has resisted labels for genetically modified foods. In a 1992 policy statement, the FDA allowed GE foods to be marketed without labeling, claiming that these foods were not “materially” different from other foods because the genetic differences could not be recognized by taste, smell or other senses.
According to the bill’s sponsors, the FDA’s antiquated labeling policy has not kept pace with 21st century food technologies that allow for a wide array of genetic and molecular changes to food that can’t be detected by human senses. Common sense would indicate that GE corn that produces its own insecticide – or is engineered to survive being doused by herbicides – is materially different from traditional corn that does not. Even the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recognized that these foods are materially different and novel for patent purposes.
Consumers – who are used to reading labels to see if foods contain MSG, gluten, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup or aspartame – clearly want more information. More than one and a half million Americans have filed comments with the FDA urging the agency to label GE foods.
The bipartisan legislation would require clear labels for genetically engineered whole foods and processed foods, including fish and seafood. The measure would direct the FDA to write new labeling standards that are consistent with U.S. labeling standards and international standards.
Sixty-four countries around the world already require the labeling of GE foods, including all the member nations of the European Union, Russia, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand.