July 21, 2019

Members of Congress Ask FDA to Label GMO Foods

On March 12, 2012, 10 United States senators and 45 representatives sent a letter to Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, in support of a petition to label genetically modified foods (GMOs).

The Center for Food Safety, along with Just Label It! launched the petition, which is filed under Docket #FDA-2011-P-0723-0001/CP. The petition is supported by more than 400 consumer groups and health organizations. They believe that labeling is necessary for consumers to make informed decisions.

Genetically modified foods are created when scientists literally modify the genes of plants or animals to generate desired characteristics, such as resistance to pesticides or cold temperatures.

The letter was originated by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR). Other signers include Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (DOH), Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY).

The letter states, in part:

“FDA’s regulatory regime for food labeling is inadqueate and uses 19th century concepts to regulate 21st century food technologies.

As you know, in its 1992 policy statement, FDA allowed GE foods to be marketed without labeling because they were not ‘materially’ different from other foods. In that policy statement, the agency severely limited what it considered ‘material’ to only changes in food that could be recognized by taste, smell, or other senses. The use of novel food technologies like genetic engineering on a commercial scale has so far slipped underneath FDA’s limited threshold for ‘materiality’ because such technologies make silent, genetic, and molecular changes to food that are not capable of being detected by human senses.”

The letter also states that the FDA applied the 1992 standard to genetically engineered animals “without revisiting the scientific or legal merits of the standard. This decision is especially troubling given FDA’s current consideration of a GE salmon that would be the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption.”

When making decisions about labeling on other issues, the FDA has stated that they require information on a food label based on physical changes to the food, whether consumers think that information is important, and whether withholding that information misleads consumers.

Other countries label GMO foods, including Brazil, 15 members of the EU, Australia, Japan, China, and Russia.

Scientists estimate that 60 to 70% of all processed foods sold in the U.S. contain at least one GMO ingredient. And no epidemiological studies about the effects of GMO foods on human beings have been conducted.

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