Saturday, April 27, 2013

US Proposal Would Require Labeling On Genetically Modified Foods

US Proposal Would Require Labeling On Genetically Modified Foods

A decades-long push to require the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients in the United States received a significant boost Wednesday, when bipartisan bills on the issue were simultaneously proposed in the House and Senate.

Advocates of such measures are reacting with excitement, noting that the new bills appear to be far better positioned than previous such attempts, in terms of both public and Congressional support. If the bills pass, the United States would join 64 other countries that have already put in place similar laws or regulations.

The legislative moves mark the first time that such a bill has been proposed in the U.S. Senate in more than a dozen years, a period during which the use of genetically modified crops has expanded exponentially.

Further, while that earlier iteration, from 2000, was the work of just a single Democratic senator and was unable to attract any additional co-sponsors, the new bill has already received official support from nine senators and 21 representatives, including two Republicans.

“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Senator Barbara Boxer, a key sponsor of the new bill and author of the 2000 proposal, said Wednesday.

“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.”

Indeed, public opinion on the matter appears to be overwhelmingly on the side of the new proposal, which would direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the main government regulator on food-related issues, to require food producers to clearly label their products if they contain genetically engineered (GE) components.

According to multiple polls in recent years (including here and here), more than 90 percent of people in the United States favor the FDA requiring the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

Yet for years, the FDA has pushed back against such requests, despite having the legal authority to mandate such a change. Rather, today’s policy continues to be informed by 1992 guidance in which FDA administrators stated that GE foods were not “materially” different from conventional foods.

The rationale for this stance was simply that consumers were unable to physically sense the difference between conventional and genetically modified foods.

“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,” according to a press release put out by the bill’s main sponsors, Senator Boxer and Representative Peter DeFazio.

Further, such a test appears inconsistent with regard to the 3,000 other substances for which the FDA does require labeling.

“The fact of the matter is that, for far too long, the FDA has been playing politics over science,” Colin O’Neil, the director of government affairs at the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group, told IPS.

“Corn that produces its own insecticide, or a fish that grows twice as fast as normal, or an apple that doesn’t turn brown for 30 days – we know these are material changes and that those are novel foods.”


I know, don't get your hopes up. But at least this is something that may actually have legs to it. Substantial equivalence is being challenged. It's about time...


Support The New Federal Labeling Bill

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