The Food and Drug Administration would be required to clearly label genetically engineered food, under legislation introduced Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.
“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Boxer said in a news 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.”
Boxer’s office says surveys have found more than 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The FDA now requires labeling of more than 3,000 ingredients, additives and processes, but in a 1992 policy statement 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.
But Boxer notes that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recognized that these foods are materially different and novel for patent purposes, and more than 1.5 million Americans have filed comments with the FDA urging the agency to label GE foods.
Bozer’s and DeFazio’s “Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act” would require clear labels for genetically engineered whole foods and processed foods, including fish and seafood; the FDA would be directed to write new labeling standards consistent with other U.S. and international standards. So far, 64 nations already require labeling of GE foods, including all the member of the European Union, Russia, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand.
Boxer’s office described the legislation as bipartisan, but of the nine senators and 22 House members who are original co-sponsors, the only two Republicans are U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. The House cosponsors include Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.
California voters in November narrowly defeated Proposition 37, which would’ve required labeling of genetically engineered food with some exceptions.