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GMO Foods Subject of Bill in U.S. Senate

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering Page and our Millions Against Monsanto Page.

On the heels of last year's defeat on the issue in California, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., have introduced a bill to order the Food and Drug Administration to mandate the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The legislation, which would require food manufacturers and stores to tag items made with genetically modified ingredients or grown from genetically engineered seeds, has support from both sides of the aisle, including more than 20 co-sponsors combined in the Senate and House of Representatives.

It has been hailed by food labeling advocates as a boon for consumers who have repeatedly tried to get such laws passed. California's Proposition 37, a referendum on requiring genetically engineered food labeling last year, failed to pass. Boxer tried to pass a similar bill, without success, in 2000. But activists say that Boxer and DeFazio's proposed legislation shows that demand for a genetically engineered labeling law has reached critical mass.

"This is big because for the first time in 13 years the U.S. Senate has recognized consumers' right to know," said Colin O'Neil, director of government affairs for the Center for Food Safety, of the federal proposal. "Labeling has become a nonpartisan issue. It's no longer an issue of if, but when."

Unlike Prop. 37, criticized for giving exemptions to products such as beef and most dairy, the federal bill would include all food items under the FDA's purview. Foods such as beef and poultry, which are overseen by the Department of Agriculture, would also follow the labeling law, O'Neil said.

Prop. 37 lost, with 53.1 percent of voters casting a no vote. Proponents of the measure said they were blitzed by the food industry's $46 million No on 37 campaign.

Those opponents argued that genetically engineered crops are safe and that the government would be stigmatizing those foods and standing in the way of science by requiring labeling.

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