Led by Boxer and DeFazio, Bicameral Letter Calls for Reversal of Two Decade-Old Labeling Policy, Supports Center for Food Safety (CFS) Legal Petition
IN ONLY 6 MONTHS, ALREADY 850,000+ PUBLIC COMMENTS SUBMITTED TO FDA IN SUPPORT OF LABELING
On March 12, a bicameral letter signed by 55 Members of Congress was sent to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg calling on the agency to require the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.
The bicameral, bipartisan letter led by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) was written in support of a legal petition filed by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) on behalf of the Just Label It campaign and its nearly 400 partner organizations and businesses; many health, consumer, environmental, and farming organizations, as well as food companies, are also signatories. Since CFS filed the labeling petition in October 2011, the public has submitted over 850,000 comments in support of labeling.
“Consumers are being misled about the foods they are purchasing,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety. “FDA’s two-decade old decision is bad policy based on outdated science and must be revoked. The American consumer deserves the same fundamental freedoms and choices of other nations’ citizens.”
In the U.S. there is overwhelming public demand—consistently near 95%—for the labeling of GE foods. The U.S. policy of not requiring GE labeling makes it a stark outlier among developed and developing nations. Nearly 50 countries have mandatory labeling policies for GE foods including South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, Australia, New Zealand, the entire European Union, and many others.
In its 1992 policy statement, FDA allowed GE foods to be marketed without labeling on the basis that they were not “materially” different from other foods. However, the agency severely limited what it considered “material” by targeting only changes in food that could be recognized by taste, smell, or other senses – applying 19th century science to the regulation of 21st century food technologies. The outdated standard has no legal basis in the statute and was adopted by FDA despite a lack of scientific studies or data to support the assumption that GE foods are not materially different from conventional foods.
The Congressional letter to FDA states:
At issue is the fundamental right consumers have to make informed choices about the food they eat…The agency currently requires over 3,000 other ingredients, additives, and processes to be labeled; providing basic information doesn’t confuse the public, it empowers them to make choices. Absent labeling, Americans are unable to choose for themselves whether to purchase GE foods…. We urge you to fully review the facts, law, and science, and side with the American public by requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods as is done in nearly 50 countries throughout the world.
The 45 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to join the letter are: Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Richard Hanna (NY-24), Dennis Kucinich (OH-10), George Miller, (CA-7), Louise Slaughter(NY-28), Keith Ellison (MN-5), Raul Grijalva (AZ-7), Peter Welch (VT-At Large), Hansen Clarke (MI-13), Earl Blumenauer, (OR-3), Lloyd Doggett (TX-25), Anna Eshoo (CA-14), Sam Farr (CA-17), Maurice Hinchey (NY-22), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Chellie Pingree (ME-1), Jim McDermott WA-7), Madeleine Bordallo (GU-At Large), James Moran (VA-8), John Olver (MA-1), Jared Polis (CO-2), Charles Rangel (NY-15), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), Pete Stark (CA-13), Howard L. Berman (CA-28), Robert Brady (PA-1), David Cicilline (RI-1), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-11), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Dianne DeGette (CO-1), Bob Filner (CA-5), Barney Frank (MA-4), Luis Gutierrez (IL-4), Janice Hahn (CA-36), Michael Honda (CA-15), Barbara Lee (CA-9), Zoe Lofgren (CA-16), James McGovern (MA-3), Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Jackie Speier (CA-12), John Tierney (MA-6), Melvin L. Watt (NC-12), Lynn Woolsey (CA-6), Maxine Waters (CA-35), and Grace Napolitano (CA-38).
The 10 Members of the U.S. Senate to join the letter are: Barbara Boxer (CA), Patrick Leahy (VT), Bernie Sanders (VT), Daniel Akaka (HI), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Ron Wyden (OR), Mark Begich (AK), Jon Tester (MT), Richard Blumenthal (CT), and Jeff Merkley (OR).
The bicameral letter was supported by more than 70 businesses and organizations including Stonyfield Farm, the National Cooperative Grocers Association, the National Organic Coalition, Beanitos, Inc., Consumers Union, Organic Valley, PCC Natural Markets, the Organic Farming Research Foundation, and a number of farming and fishing associations.
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The 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.