Democrats on opposite sides of the nation have teamed up to introduce legislation in the U.S. House and Senate that would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to label genetically engineered (GE) foods.
The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act was introduced Thursday by Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon.
"As a consumer and dad, I want to know whether my family is eating food that has been altered artificially in genetics—and the American public wants and deserves to know as well," Blumenthal said in a statement. “This measure is about the right to know—disclosure of critical information about the most widely consumed products. Consumers demand disclosure and truth-telling about food, and they're right."
The Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to pass the legislation. The Senate bill is co-sponsored by 12 Democrats and one independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, where a controversial, genetically engineered labeling law is mired in federal court. The House bill has 22 co-sponsors—21 Democrats and just one Republican, Rep. Don Young of Alaska.
"This legislation is the wrong solution at the wrong time and will lead to high food prices and misleading labels," said Claire Parker, a spokesperson with the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, whose members include the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). “Even the voters of Senator Boxer’s home state of California rejected this approach when they voted down a mandatory labeling initiative in 2013, and Congress should again do the same thing with this proposal."
Most consumers are in favor of labeling GE foods, polls show. Yet voters have rejected such initiatives in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.
Democrats and the GOP are split on the right approach to labeling.
Last year, a Republican in the House introduced a bill that would have barred the FDA from imposing mandatory labeling based solely on the fact that the food includes bioengineered ingredients.
Critics of the Safe and Accurate Labeling Act of 2014 dubbed the legislation the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know Act) because they said it would thwart state efforts around the nation to require labels on GE foods.
FDA does not require labeling of GE foods. Democrats argue the agency’s labeling policy is antiquated.
Last year, however, the head of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) told House lawmakers that genetically engineered foods are as safe as conventional ones.