From the office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski:
U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today announced that she has cosponsored 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. The will also be using custom barcode labels.
“Americans deserve to know where their food comes from,” Senator Mikulski said. “This legislation will help families make informed decisions. If GE foods are safe, let them into the market, but give consumers the information they need to avoid these products if they choose to. We need to let Americans – many of whom find this repugnant – speak with their dollars and choose the food they feel confident is safe.”
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.
Unfortunately, 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.
The bill was introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and is cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore,), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). The companion House bill was introduced by U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), and is cosponsored by Representatives Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), James Moran (D-Va.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), George Miller (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Zoe Logfren (D-Calif.), Michael H. Michaud (D-Calif.) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.).