On April 24, Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced S. 809 and H.R. 1699, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, respectively. If passed, the bill would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to mandate labels for food with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, including food produced using genetically engineered seeds.

About 70 percent to 80 percent of the processed foods sold in the United States are made with genetically engineered ingredients, including corn, soybeans, sugar beets and cottonseed oil. Under this bill, products such as non-genetically engineered meat, poultry and dairy would not be labeled even if the animals were fed genetically engineered grain or hay. But unlike Proposition 37, which was narrowly defeated by popular vote last year in California, alcohol produced using GE grain or grapes would be labeled.

There are 26 states trying to pass legislation that would require GE foods to be labeled. Sen. Boxer thinks it makes more sense to have a single law for the entire nation.

The NCC has adopted policy opposing mandatory labeling of GE foods on the grounds that it would violate a long-standing policy of FDA to limit mandatory labeling except when there are substantial differences in the products such as nutritional value or allergens. The NCC also believes that such labeling would be used by anti-biotech groups to steer consumers away from buying GE products and would have a negative impact on further technologies.

The NCC had joined numerous other organizations on a Congressional letter opposing this bill. The letter is on the NCC’s website at www.cotton.org/issues/2013/upload/13gelabelingletter.pdf.

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