Fifty-five members of Congress have written to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg in support of a petition urging the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods and food ingredients.
The bipartisan letter , signed by 45 US representatives and 10 US senators, supports a legal petition filed by the Center for Food Safety in October 2011, which has gained more than 850,000 signatures. The Just Label It campaign is a coalition of about 400 organizations and businesses, and claims it has generated more comments than any other food petition in FDA history.
The Congressional letter argues that the FDA’s stance that these foods are not “materially” different from unmodified foods, and should therefore not be labeled, is flawed, as it only takes into account differences that can be perceived by the senses.
“At issue is the fundamental right consumers have to make informed choices about the food they eat,” the letter reads.
“Labeling foods doesn’t imply a product is unsafe or will be confusing to consumers as some may argue. The FDA requires the labeling of over 3,000 ingredients, additives, and processes; providing basic information doesn’t confuse the public, it empowers them to make choices. Absent labeling, Americans are unable to choose for themselves whether to purchase GE foods.”
It adds that polls have shown that many consumers are surprised to learn that GE foods are not labeled – and that consumers want the federal government to require labeling.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, 94% of all soy, over 90% of sugar beet and canola, and 88% of corn in the United States is now grown using GM seeds. In processed foods, the Grocery Manufacturers Association has estimated that more than 75% of foods on the market contain GMOs.
In a recent guidance document, the FDA said: “The FDA has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.”