Groups Demand FDA Label Genetically Engineered Foods

Today, a coalition of nearly 400 businesses and organizations filed a legal petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.

GE foods are altered at the molecular level in ways that could not happen naturally.

The legal action is being taken on behalf of the Just Label It campaign, a coalition of health, consumer, environmental, farming organizations, food companies, scientists and doctors dedicated to food safety and consumer rights. 

The diverse coalition includes the American Nurses Association, breastcancer.org, Center for Food Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union (publishers of Consumer Reports), National Cooperative Grocers Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Union of Concerned Scientists, numerous food companies and many more. 

The petition calls for the FDA to require that food products with GE ingredients disclose this information on the label.

The FDA has rejected labeling of GE foods since 1992. In contrast, labeling is required in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Brazil and China.

"FDA’s current policy uses 19th century rationale for a 21st century issue, leaving consumers in the dark to hidden changes to their food," says Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for the Center for Food Safety. "It is long overdue that FDA acknowledge the myriad reasons genetically engineered (GE) foods should be labeled and label these novel foods once and for all." 

In 1992, the FDA issued a policy statement that GE foods were not "materially" different – and thus did not need to be labeled.  The agency severely constricted what it called "material," limiting it to the ability of a change to be tasted, smelled, or known through the other senses.  After almost 20 years, this policy is unfortunately still in effect today.

The legal petition identifies scientific and legal grounds requiring GE foods be labeled.  Most importantly, the current lack of any labeling makes GE foods misleading, in violation of FDA’s duties under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. 

GE foods are different from conventional foods – they are able to be patented because they are "novel." Studies show GE crops carry significant novel environmental harms, such as transgenic contamination of natural crops and massive increases in pesticide use.  These differences should mandate labeling. 

FDA does not independently test GE foods; in the U.S., food safety oversight is limited to voluntary consultation with industry.  Safety is based on the confidential industry data.

A 2010 Thomson Reuters PULSETM Healthcare Survey, "National Survey of Healthcare Consumers: Genetically Engineered Food," showed that 93% of Americans believe GE foods should be labeled.

Nearly 90% of corn, 94% of soy, and 90% of cottonseed grown in the US are from GE seeds. These ingredients are most often found in packaged foods like cereals, crackers, cookies, chips, and frozen meals, or any food that’s contains these ingredients that’s not certified organic. 

Here’s a Smartphone App that steers shoppers away from GMOs.

This year, Monsanto added sweetcorn, sugar beets and alfalfa to the list of GE crops that already included field corn, cotton, canola, soy, and papaya – without regulations to protect organic farmers from contamination and no labels to respect consumers’ right to know.

Also, this year, research showed that Monsanto Round-Up Ready GE crops were strangled in the fields, attacked by the very insects and weeds they were genetically engineered to resist.

Read Resisting The Corporate Theft Of Seeds, which says:

…"But the biggest threat we face is the control of seed and food moving out of the hands of farmers and communities and into a few corporate hands. Monopoly control of cottonseed and the introduction of genetically engineered Bt cotton has already given rise to an epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India. A quarter-million farmers have taken their lives because of debt induced by the high costs of nonrenewable seed, which spins billions of dollars of royalty for firms like Monsanto."

"Scientists and consumers alike have many reasons for being concerned about the long-term health and environmental consequences of genetically engineered foods. And the scientific debate about the benefits and risks of these crops will continue for a long time. Meanwhile an entire generation will have grown up consuming them," says Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, a member of the coalition. "While our reasons for wanting to know what is in our food may vary, the one thing no one can debate is that it is our right to know.  Without labeling of GE foods, we cannot make informed choices about the foods we eat and, we all should have this choice while the debate continues."

Pending before the FDA is a decision on whether to approve the first genetically engineered animal – salmon that grows to maturity twice as fast as the wild fish – and if approved, whether to require labeling.

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Anti-GMO movement in Europe offers lessons for the U.S.

Boulder residents mobilize against GM crops

WikiLeaks: U.S. diplomats pushing Ghana to allow GM crops

California is poised to be the first state with mandatory GMO labeling laws through the 2012 California Ballot Initiative process.

NYC to DC: Oct 1-16 – The Right2Know March

Nationwide – Oct 15 & 16 – Millions Against Monsanto World Food Day Events

Join the OCA-Endorsed National Buying Club for Organic and Non-GMO Foods

From Lab to Plate: A Primer on GE Food

Send your comment to the FDA:

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