From Green Right Now Reports

A federal law introduced Wednesday would require labeling for genetically modified foods.

Locally Grown 2

Sweet corn is among the most recent foods to be genetically modified. So far, an American consumer buying sweet corn will not know if it’s GMO or not.

If passed, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act would require the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) to clearly label GE or GMO foods so that consumers can see what they’re buying. The federal law also would relieve states of having to draft and pass their own laws.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced the bipartisan bill, which has more than 30 co-sponsors in the House and Senate.

In a statement, Sen. Boxer pointed out that the public strongly supports food labeling for GE foods, and when polled large majorities, up to 90 percent, say they want to be able to decide between GE and non-GE products.

“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. “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.”

Said Rep. DeFazio: “This legislation is supported by consumer’s rights advocates, family farms, environmental organizations, and businesses, and it allows consumers to make an informed choice.”

Added Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), “Consumers deserve to have clear, consistent, and accurate facts about the food products they purchase. More information is always better than less.”

Americans have been in the dark about which foods are genetically modified (the majority of corn, soybeans and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are GMO) because the FDA approved GE crops in the 1990s, deeming them to be “substantially” the same as conventional crops.

But around the world, and increasingly in the U.S., consumers don’t believe that foods altered with transgenic genes and engineered to resist pesticides are the same as their unmodified cousins.

Sen. Boxer’s statement elaborated on this point:

“Common sense would indicate that GE corn that produces its own insecticide – or is engineered to survive being doused by 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 FDA, the statement noted, could easily mandate labeling for GE foods; it already requires special labels for more than 3,000 additives, ingredients and processes involved in food manufacturing and consumers are accustomed to checking for high-fructose corn syrup, MSG and other additives.

The GE-labeling law would ask the FDA to write new labeling standards consistent with its existing practices and with international standards.

Sen. Barbara-Boxer

Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-CA)

Around the world, 64 countries already require the labeling for GE foods, including Russia, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and all the member nations of the European Union.

In the U.S., biotech companies, led by Monsanto, have opposed labeling for GE foods, saying that it would needlessly frighten consumers. Monsanto, and a few other large Agricultural/Biotech companies like Syngenta, make both the genetically engineered seeds and the pesticides that many of the GE-foods are designed to withstand.

By building in pesticide resistance, the GE-food model allows for pesticides to be applied almost anytime in the crop cycle, making it easier for farms large and small to control weeds and pests. The scenario has backfired, however, with certain weeds achieving resistance to the pesticides being used (in many cases Monsanto’s RoundUp). As these weed failures occur, the biotech firms have applied for permits for other pesticides, including the notorious 2,4-D, which was a component in Agent Orange, known for having caused multiple health problems during the Vietnam War.

The science on the effects in humans from GE foods is still unclear. Some studies suggest that GMO grains may increase allergic reactions. A study in France found that rats dosed with RoundUp or GE corn developed more tumors than the control group.

Environmentalists argue that the widespread use of GE foods is forcing US residents into a long term health experiment about which they have no say. They also argue that GE crop production has resulted in increased use of pesticides, which are damaging the soil and waterways.

Many organizations and businesses support the federal labeling bill, 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 more (See here.)