(Hartford, CT) –U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) led Connecticut advocates today in calling for federal legislation to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Earlier this year, Blumenthal joined Chef Tom Colicchio and legislators to announce introduction of the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, legislation that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clearly label genetically engineered (GE) foods so that consumers can make informed choices about what they eat. The bill was introduced by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and is co-sponsored by Blumenthal.
According to surveys, more than 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of genetically engineered foods. In fact, many consumers are surprised to learn that GE foods are not already labeled. Also, 64 countries around the world already require the labeling of GE foods, including all the member nations of the European Union, Russia, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand.
Millions of Americans have filed comments with the FDA urging the agency to label GE foods, underscoring that today’s consumers – who are used to reading labels to see if foods contain MSG, gluten, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup or aspartame – clearly want more information when making decisions for their families.
Blumenthal said: “As a consumer and dad, I want to know whether my family is eating food that has been altered artificially in genetics-- and the American public wants and deserves to know as well. This measure is about the right to know-- disclosure of critical information about the most widely consumed products. Consumers demand disclosure and truth- telling about food, and they're right."
Tom Colicchio, owner of Craft Restaurants and co-founder of Food Policy Action said: “The public wants more information about the food they are buying and how it’s grown. I applaud Sen. Boxer and Rep. DeFazio for their leadership, and urge their colleagues to join them, and stand up for the 93% of Americans who want to know if their food has been genetically modified.”
Tara Cook-Littman, Chair of Citizens for GMO Labeling said: “We are proud that once again, Connecticut is taking a leadership role in the GMO Labeling debate. While others are proposing bills to keep consumers in the Dark, Senator Blumenthal is leading the way toward real food transparency."
Bill Duesing, organic advocate with the Connecticut chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association said: “The Connecticut chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association thanks and congratulates Senator Blumenthal and his colleagues on the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Bill. Connecticut's success in passing the first GMO labeling legislation in the nation was the result incredible grass roots activism, exemplifying our democracy at its best. It would be a tragedy if a handful of special interests in the food and chemical business took that hard won victory away with the ‘Dark Act’ also known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.”
The FDA currently requires the labeling of over 3,000 ingredients, additives and processes, including labels for juices made “from concentrate,” 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.
Unfortunately, the FDA’s antiquated labeling policy has not kept pace with 21st century food technologies that allow for a wide array of genetic and molecular changes to food that can’t be detected by human senses. Common sense would indicate that GE corn that produces its own insecticide, or is engineered to survive being treated with herbicides, is materially different from traditional corn that does not. Even the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recognized that these foods are materially different and novel for patent purposes.
The legislation would require clear labels for genetically engineered foods intended for human consumption, including whole foods, processed foods, seafood and animal-based foods to provide consumers with material information about their food and prevent consumer confusion. Under the bill, if a food has been genetically engineered, it would identified as a GE food in the ingredients list. Any product that has been genetically engineered would also not be allowed to identify itself with a “natural” label.
The measure would also resolve concerns about the emerging patchwork of state labeling standards by directing the FDA to implement a federal labeling standard for all GE foods. Three states – Connecticut, Maine and Vermont – currently have mandatory GE labeling laws, and in 2013 and 2014, more than 60 bills and ballot initiatives were introduced in more than 30 states.
The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act has broad support from organizations and businesses, including the Center for Food Safety, 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. A full list of organizations and businesses endorsing the bill can be found here.