National GMO Labeling Bill

The Boxer and DeFazio bills would require clear labels for genetically engineered whole foods and processed foods, including fish and seafood.

The Boxer and DeFazio bills would require clear labels for genetically engineered whole foods and processed foods, including fish and seafood.

by Mary Budinger —

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently introduced a bill requiring the nationwide labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a companion bill in the House.

“We deserve to have the right to know what is in the foods we eat,” Boxer said, noting that she introduced a similar bill 13 years ago when public support was far less than it is today. “If these companies believe in their products, they should have nothing to fear.”

More than 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of GE foods. The Food and Drug Administration now requires labeling of more than 3,000 ingredients, additives and processes. However, in a 1992 policy statement, they 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.

Yet the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recognizes that GE foods are indeed materially different and grants them patents.

The Boxer and DeFazio bills 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.

The national legislation would not cover beef or milk from cows that consume genetically modified corn. Nor would it apply to food used in restaurants, hospitals or other medical environments. Nor does it apply to food produced using a GE vaccine or a “processing aid,” such as yeast.

Food manufacturers are protected so long as they have a statement from the grower that the food contains no genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The bill also protects producers whose food was unintentionally contaminated by GMOs, so long as the contamination did not occur as a result of negligence. The FDA would be responsible for enforcement.

In Arizona, activist Rachel Linden founded GMOFreeAZ.org to educate the public about GMO risks and to support a labeling initiative on the 2014 state ballot. “It is ambitious to think we would be able to do it, and it would take multiple groups pulling together,” Linden said. “On a recent conference call with the Center for Food Safety, we were told by Sen. Boxer’s office not to stop state labeling initiatives and that a federal bill would not preempt state bills; both efforts work synergistically together.”

Arizona is one of the founding members of the Coalition of States, a group of representatives from more than 37 states and Canada networking together on the passage of GMO labeling bills.

 

Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about integrative medicine. 602-494-1999.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 3, June/July 2013.

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