Legislation requiring the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to label genetically engineered (GE) foods was introduced in both chambers of Congress by Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.) and by Rep. DeFazio (D-Ore.). The bills are co-sponsored by 31 members of both houses, mostly Democrats with the exception of Alaskan Republicans Sen. Murkowski and Rep. Young.
The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act would require labels for GE whole foods, processed foods, fish and seafood and directs the FDA to write new labeling standards. FDA has a long-standing policy which requires labeling of GE foods only if the food is significantly different in nutritional property, includes an allergen, or contains safety risks for the consumer.
The bill is the result of the defeat of Proposition 37 in California last year. A similar referendum is under way in Oregon.
Labeling proponents claim that people have the right to know what ingredients are in the food that they consume. Groups supporting new labeling requirements include the Center for Food Safety, the National Farmers Union, Consumers Union and the Environmental Working Group.
Most agricultural groups, technology providers, food processors and grocery manufacturers are opposed to labeling, which is certain to drive up food prices. Opponents also believe that most Americans do not have accurate information about the technology and that anti-biotech groups will use the label as a scare tactic to drive consumers away from purchasing labeled products.
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