U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) this week introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, bipartisan 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.
“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Boxer stated in a press release. “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.”
A similar Calfornia state measure on labeling GE foods, also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), was rejected by California voters this past November. Most Americans consume GE foods on a daily basis, as two extremely common ingredients, corn and soybeans, are frequently produced from GE seed. However, both Boxer and DeFazio claim widespread support for labeling.
“When American families purchase food, they deserve to know if that food was genetically engineered in a laboratory,” DeFazio said in the press release. “This legislation is supported by consumer’s rights advocates, family farms, environmental organizations, and businesses, and it allows consumers to make an informed choice.”
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.
The FDA has long opposed the mandatory labeling of GMO foods because it agrees with a scientific consensus that these foods pose no new risk to human health or the environment. The American Medical Association has declared that such labeling is completely unnecessary. Currently, the AMA noted, if consumers want to make sure they are not consuming GMOs, they can purchase foods labeled organic.
Cosponsors of the Senate bill are 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). 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 (DVA), 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.