| Legislation would require labeling of genetically modified food nationally
by Brian Leubitz
California's food labeling measure, Prop 37, was defeated by less than two points (51.4-48.6) last year, and that's with a mountain of industry cash against a small group of determined activists. California would have been a launching ground for the labeling of genetically modified food, But with an issue like food, maybe it is better to bring at the national level.
And that's just what Senator Boxer is doing with the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act. Along with a strong bipartisan coalition, including such interesting inclusions as Sens. Lisa Murkowski(R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), and a slew of progressive Congress members.
According to surveys, more than 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of genetically engineered foods. That is until a campaign comes along, dumps a bunch of cash into confusion, and suddenly things change. That being said, many consumers are surprised to learn that GE foods are not already labeled.
Currently, the FDA requires the labeling of over 3,000 ingredients, additives and processes, but the agency has resisted labels for genetically modified foods. In a 1992 policy statement, the FDA 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.
Clearly passing legislation like this will not be easy. There are still a lot of food producers that are willing to oppose this to the very end. However, informing consumers can't really be a bad thing. After all, people are still eating foods that are labelled as containing large amounts of unhealthy ingredients as it is. This just gives people the option of knowing what they are eating. And today Sen. Boxer will be promoting the legislation at the Berkeley HQ of Clif Bar, along with some notable food producers. Getting behind this legislation would be a positive development for the industry, and show consumers that they can trust what they eat.