Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act

I was reading the Bill that was introduced a few months ago in Congress (but that languished in Committee and died a few weeks ago when the new Congress was seated - never to become law).

It was a Bill that originated in the House of Representatives:
HR 6636, 110th Congress
Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act

It mandates labels for genetically engineered food:
"To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Federal Meat Inspection Act, and the Poultry Products Inspection Act to require that food that contains a genetically engineered material, or that is produced with a genetically engineered material, be labeled accordingly."
It was introduced by former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, and was supported by 11 other members of Congress:

Rep Kucinich, Dennis J. (OH-10] - 7/29/2008
Rep DeFazio, Peter A. [OR-4] - 7/29/2008
Rep Frank, Barney [MA-4] - 9/25/2008
Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7] - 7/29/2008
Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22] - 7/29/2008
Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9] - 7/29/2008
Rep McDermott, Jim [WA-7] - 7/29/2008
Rep Sanchez, Linda T. [CA-39] - 7/29/2008
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9] - 7/29/2008
Rep Shays, Christopher [CT-4] - 7/29/2008
Rep Stark, Fortney Pete [CA-13] - 7/29/2008
Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [CA-6] - 9/10/2008

Here's the full text of the bill.

Here's a part I found interesting. Congress gave the following justification for the labeling of foods made from genetically engineered ingredients:
The Congress finds as follows:
(1) The process of genetically engineering foods results in the material change of such foods.
(2) The Congress has previously required that all foods bear labels that reveal material facts to consumers.
(3) Federal agencies have failed to uphold Congressional intent by allowing genetically engineered foods to be marketed, sold and otherwise used without labeling that reveals material facts to the public.
(4) Consumers wish to know whether the food they purchase and consume contains or is produced with a genetically engineered material for a variety of reasons, including the potential transfer of allergens into food and other health risks, concerns about potential environmental risks associated with the genetic engineering of crops, and religiously and ethically based dietary restrictions.
(5) Consumers have a right to know whether the food they purchase contains or was produced with genetically engineered material.
(6) Labels voluntarily placed on foods are insufficient to provide consumers with adequate information on whether or not all the food they are purchasing contains or was produced with genetically engineered material.
(7) Mandatory labeling provides a critical scientific method necessary for the continual postmarket surveillance to study long-term health impacts and enforcement of food safety laws preventing adulterated foods from reaching consumers.
(8) Many of the United States’ key trading partners, including countries in the European Union, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China, have established, or are in the process of implementing, mandatory labeling requirements for genetically engineered food.
(9) Adoption and implementation of mandatory labeling requirements for genetically engineered food produced in the United States would facilitate international trade by allowing American farmers and companies to export and appropriately market their products--both genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered--to foreign customers.
All of the arguments I've heard used in defense of labeling are tightly summarized, right here, in a Bill written by Congress and endorsed by several of its members. Health risks, environmental risks, ethical decisions, post-market surveillance, international trade markets - it's all here. I want to be a Senator or Representative and I want to reintroduce this Bill to the new 111th Congress. I want to do that.


Gabriella said...

I think it's interesting (with everything that's going on), that our country has more heart disease, diabetes, and cancer then any other industrialized nation. Most of U.S. children have been raised on genetically engineered fruits & veggies. Wouldn't you think that genetically engineered food would have negative impact on human DNA after a couple generations? (Not to overlook irradiated food.)I'd think it would also decrease our level of immunity and be lacking in degree of nutrients compared to produce from 30 years ago. Wish we could get this bill passed.

Perovskia said...

Excellent thought. I don't know that a generation or two would make a difference, though. And even if it did, I honestly think we wouldn't see the signs. It usually takes a while for someone to say, "Hey, this doesn't seem normal"..sadly.

Bix said...

Genetically engineered products have been linked to irritable bowel syndrome, among other conditions.
(See: Seeds of Deception)