Bioengineered labeling effort reaches national stage

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Peter DeFazio of Oregon have introduced S.809, the “Genetically engineered food right-to-know act,” legislation that would require the labeling of food and beverage products that contain ingredients that have been bioengineered. The bill has nine cosponsors in the Senate and 22 in the House.

“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Ms. Boxer said. “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.”

Calling the Food and Drug Administration’s food labeling policies “antiquated,” the senators said in a statement that food labeling policy has not kept pace with 21st century food technologies that allow a wide array of genetic and molecular changes to food that can’t be detected by human senses.

“Common sense would indicate that G.E. corn that produces its own insecticide — or is engineered to survive being doused by herbicides — is materially different from traditional corn that does not,” the statement said. “Even the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recognized that these foods are materially different and novel for patent purposes.

“Consumers — who are used to reading labels to see if foods contain MSG, trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup or aspartame — clearly want more information. More than one and a half million Americans have filed comments with the F.D.A. urging the agency to label G.E. foods.”

The legislation would require the labeling of bioengineered whole foods and processed foods, including seafood. The measure would direct the F.D.A. to write labeling standards that are consistent with U.S. labeling standards and international standards.
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