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Award-winning author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food
Federal Legislation Introduced To Require The Labeling Of Genetically Engineered Foods
April 24th, 2013

Companion Legislation Introduced by Senator Boxer and Congressman DeFazio with Bipartisan Support; Backed by Pending State Legislation in Over Half of U.S. States, Labeling Laws in 64 Countries

First Federal Labeling Bill Introduced in the Senate in Over a Decade

Today Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, which would require the labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) foods at the federal level. 

“Americans have the right to know about the foods they are purchasing,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at the Center for Food Safety. “A vast majority of consumers have demanded that GE foods be labeled and without mandatory labeling American families are being left in the dark. The American public deserves the freedom of choice in their foods enjoyed by the 64 other nations that have mandatory labeling of these novel foods.”

The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act is the first federal GE labeling bill to be introduced in the Senate since 2000.  The Boxer-DeFazio bill comes on the heels of the passage last month of an amendment to the Senate budget resolution to require the labeling of GE fish, introduced by Senator Begich (D-AK), who is also an original co-sponsor of this week’s labeling bill.

“Now is the time for FDA to reverse its two-decade old policy decision against labeling,” said Kimbrell. “FDA has the authority to mandate GE labeling, yet they refuse to act.  We applaud Senator Boxer and Congressman DeFazio for taking action to bring FDA’s labeling policy into the 21st century,” added Kimbrell. 

Senator Boxer and Congressman DeFazio were joined in this bipartisan bill by 9 Senators and 22 Representatives.

The bipartisan labeling bill has been supported by over 100 organizations and businesses including Consumers Union, Environmental Working Group, Just Label It, the National Farmers Union, Stonyfield Farms, Consumer Federation of America, AllergyKids Foundation, National Cooperative Grocers Association, New England Farmers Union, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Center for Environmental Health, Chefs Collaborative, Label GMOs, Alaska Trollers Association, Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar & Company, Lundberg Family Farms, Nature’s Path, Annie’s Inc., and many others.

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are cosponsors of the Senate bill.

Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Peter Welch (D-VT), James Moran (D-VA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Don Young (R-AK), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), George Miller (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Ann Kuster (D-NH), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) are cosponsors of the House bill.

View the Senate bill HERE
View the House bill HERE

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Background

In the U.S. there is overwhelming public demand—consistently near 95%—for the labeling of GE foods.  The U.S. policy to not require GE labeling makes it a stark outlier among developed and developing nations.  Sixty-four countries have mandatory labeling policies for GE foods including South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, South Africa, Australia, the entire European Union, and many others.  

Already in 2013, 52 bills have been introduced in 26 states, including Hawaii, Washington, Indiana, Missouri, and Vermont, with many more expected by year’s end. 

In the wake of the narrowly defeated Proposition 37 in California, an independent post-election poll showed that California voters continue to strongly support the labeling of genetically engineered foods.  While the state’s hotly contested GE food labeling initiative was defeated by less than a 3 percent margin, a full 67% of voters continue to support the labeling of GE foods.  Noteworthy is the finding that 21% of all November 2012 California voters who voted against Prop. 37 said they support mandatory labeling of GE foods.

In October 2011, the Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition with the FDA to require the labeling of all food produced using genetic engineering.  In 2012, 55 Members of Congress led by Sen. Boxer and Rep. DeFazio wrote a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in support of the petition. To date, over one million public comments have been submitted to FDA in support of CFS’s legal petition for labeling; the largest public response the FDA has ever received. 

 

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About Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture.  CFS maintains offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon.  More information can be found at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.

 

 

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