November 10, 1999
WASHINGTON -- Americans should know whenever bioengineered ingredients go into their hot dogs, chips or baby formula, a group of lawmakers said Wednesday as they offered legislation to create special food labels.
"If we are what we eat, then consumers must know what they are eating," said Kucinich, D-Ohio.
Kucinich and two colleagues - Reps. Jack Metcalf, R-Wash., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. - favor a label that says "United States government notice: This product contains genetically engineered material, or was produced with a genetically engineered material."
"With so many risks of these genetically engineered foods unknown, it's only prudent to give consumers the information they need to choose to avoid them," DeFazio said.
The Biotechnology Industry Association said such labeling would confuse consumers and make them think foods might be unsafe.
"No foods in history have been subjected to as much scrutiny in advance by the federal government as those improved through biotechnology," said Michael J. Phillips, the association's executive director for food and agriculture.
"Foods on the market now that have been reviewed by the FDA are at least as safe as and in some cases safer than their counterparts produced through traditional means."
The labeling bill came as the Food and Drug Administration prepared for an unusual series of meetings around the country on bioengineered foods.
Other efforts, in the United States and abroad, have sought to resisted biotech crops.
In Europe, there is a campaign to seek labeling. Thailand has banned importation of genetically engineered food seeds.
Also, some baby-food companies have stopped using biotech ingredients because of the backlash.
Biotech foods already are in wide use, from the corn in tortilla chips to the tomatoes in spaghetti sauce to the soybeans in some baby formula.
Federal regulators who have examined the science behind the crops have assured the public they are safe.
Critics of the technology say the federal agencies depend too heavily on companies to conduct research and report problems, and that the science has not advanced enough to guarantee safety.
The also warn of unforeseen reactions, and complain that FDA's policy of regulating biotech foods similarly to regular foods is not strict enough.
Proponents insist genetic engineering is similar to traditional breeding, where plants are cross-pollinated to produce hardier varieties by sharing genes.
But genetic engineering is more precise, allowing a single gene to be spliced from one organism into another.
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Last Updated on 10/11/99
By Karen Lutz