Federal Legislators Introduce Mandatory GMO Labeling Bill

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D - Calif.)

With a stated purpose of establishing “a consistent and enforceable standard for labeling of foods produced using genetic engineering,” legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have introduced a new bill that would require mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GMO) foods and ingredients.

The bill, known as the “Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act,” was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), and would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to “require that genetically engineered food and foods that contains genetically engineered ingredients be labeled accordingly.”

Sponsors of the bill state that while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires labeling of more than 3,000 ingredients, additives and processes, the agency has resisted labels for genetically modified foods. In 1992, the FDA issued a policy statement indicating that it does not consider genetically engineered foods to be materially different from non-GMO foods.

“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Sen. Boxer said in a statement. “This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers and fishermen and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more — not less — information about the food they buy.”

The bill notes that more than 60 countries, including the U.K. and all other countries in the E.U., have laws mandating disclosure of GMO ingredients.

In November, a similar bill in California known as Proposition 37 was voted on and rejected by state residents, however, supporters of the federal bill claim that 90 percent of Americans are in favor of GMO labeling. And despite the defeat of the California bill, which was opposed by a number of large ingredient suppliers, trade groups and food and beverage companies – including Monsanto, Kraft Foods, The American Beverage Association, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co. – similar legislation has been introduced in several other states, including Washington and Pennsylvania.