WASHINGTON, April 11, 2013 – Two long-time advocates of labeling genetically modified organisms (GMO) in food products may be ready to lead a campaign to pass a federal labeling law that would mandate GMO labels on all foods containing such.
Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., plan to introduce new federal legislation next week that would require the labeling of all foods containing ingredients made from genetically modified organisms (GMO), according to the Center for Food Safety.
CFS reported on the issue after a meeting with congressional staffers earlier this week. However, spokespersons for Boxer and DeFazio did not respond to requests for more information yesterday and did not either confirm or deny the report. On April 9, Boxer tweeted: “I’m glad Top Chef’s @tomcolicchio is supporting our efforts to label genetically engineered foods. #GMO #Label”
In March of 2012, 55 members of Congress signed a letter to the FDA, asking the agency to require the labeling of GMO foods. Boxer, DeFazio and 53 others signed the letter.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has denied requests to mandate GMO labeling, noting that there is no evidence that GMO products are unsafe. The FDA does allow food manufacturers to indicate through voluntary labeling whether foods have or have not been developed through genetic engineering, provided that such labeling is truthful and not misleading.
Critics of GMO labeling argue that such labels are not only unnecessary from a food safety and nutritional standpoint, but that they will add to food costs. A Stanford School of Medicine study in Sept. 2012 found that there isn’t much of a nutritional difference between organic and conventionally produced foods, although organic foods are produced without pesticides.
However, interest in securing mandatory federal labeling on foods containing genetically engineered ingredients seems to have grown throughout the organic community after California voters rejected a hard-fought state labeling initiative, Proposition 37, last November. Despite the defeat, petitioners in several other states have followed suit.
Already in 2013, GE labeling bills have been introduced in 26 states, including Hawaii, Washington, Indiana, Missouri and Vermont, according to CFS. The next major initiative battle will be waged in Washington State in the form of a November ballot measure brought through the Legislature, called I-522.
The push for GMO labeling at the national level has been driven, in part, by Organic Voices, a group spearheaded by Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm and board chair of Organic Voices. Last month, Organic Voices announced that it will join forces with the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Scott Faber, vice president for government affairs at EWG, will also serve as Organic Voices’ executive director.
Since 2011 Organic Voices has managed the campaign, a national coalition spearheading the effort to persuade the federal Food and Drug Administration to require labeling of GMO foods. In addition, the organization has worked to educate consumers about the benefits of eating organic food.
“This is a pivotal time for GE (genetically engineered) labeling,” said Ken Cook, president of EWG and a board member of Organic Voices, in a press release announcing the collaboration. “More than 20 states will debate GE labeling legislation this year, and many food industry leaders recognize that it is time for the United States to join 62 other nations that already require GE labeling on packaged foods.”
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