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Letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture Demanding Mandatory Labeling of GMO Foods

The Honorable Pat Roberts
Chairman
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
Ranking Member
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

November 25, 2015

Dear Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow:

Thank you for addressing the need to provide consumers with information regarding the use of genetic engineering in food production.

We are writing on behalf of millions of American consumers and citizens. Collectively, our organizations, which have worked on the issue of GMO labeling for many years, are the representatives of the 9 out of 10 Americans who want to know if the food they purchase has been produced with genetic engineering.

We believe labeling is necessary both to inform consumers and to provide a means to monitor for the continued safety of products produced with genetic engineering, or products containing genetically engineered ingredients, once those products enter the food supply.

We support the ability of states to pass laws requiring labels on genetically engineered food. However, if there is an opportunity for a mandatory, on-package, nationwide standard that would label all foods produced with the use of genetic engineering, this would have our full support, provided the national standard:

    Requires mandatory labeling;

•    Requires labels be placed on all foods that have been genetically engineered or contain genetically engineered ingredients, including fish and the meat, milk and eggs of genetically engineered animals; and foods produced using new genetic engineering techniques such as RNA interference and gene editing technologies; and

    Requires labels to identify, via words visible on the package, the food or ingredients in the food as "genetically engineered," or "produced with genetic engineering." 

We will accept the use of modifying words such as "partially" or "may be," as long as they are truthful and not misleading.

We also welcome the addition of information that identifies how or why a food ingredient was engineered. For instance, "from corn genetically engineered to produce a protein that is toxic to insect pests," "from soy that is engineered to tolerate Roundup herbicide,"‎ or "salmon genetically engineered for fast growth."

We oppose labeling proposals for genetically engineered foods that allow foods to be identified with QR codes or barcodes, or in-store information that isn't directly on the food label, or information on a website. QR codes require the use of a smartphone, and surveys show that not everyone has these devices: roughly half of people in rural areas and three-quarters of people over 65 do not have a smartphone.1 Another study found that only 21% of American smartphone owners have ever scanned a QR code.2 We would accept the use of bin or shelf labels for produce and other commodities that do not bear individual labels but, if the genetically engineered food has a label or package, it should say, "genetically engineered."

Finally, no product of genetic engineering should enter the food supply until it has been approved as safe through the food additive review process required under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Labeling is not a substitute for pre-market safety testing.

Please consider our views. Collectively, we are the representatives of the 9 out of 10 Americans who want to know when their food has been produced with genetic engineering.

Sincerely,

 

Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Beyond Pesticides

Biosafety Alliance

Center for Food Safety

Citizens for GMO Labeling

Community Alliance for Global Justice

ConnFACT (Connecticut Families Against Chemical Trespass)

Consumers Union

The Cornucopia Institute

Dr. Bronner’s

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

Food and Water Watch

Food Democracy Now!

Friends of the Earth

GMO Action Alliance

GMO Free Arizona

GMO Free Florida

GMO Free Georgia

GMO Free Idaho

GMO Free Nevada

GMO Free New Jersey

GMO Free NY

GMO Free Tennessee

GMO Free USA

GMO Inside

Illinois Right to Know GMO

Institute for Responsible Technology

Just Label It

LabelGMOs.org

Label GMO Nevada

Lundberg Family Farms

Massachusetts Right to Know GMO

Moms Across America  

New Hampshire Right to Know

No GMO 4 Michigan

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut

Northeast Organic Farming Association Interstate Council

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Massachusetts

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont

Nutiva

Organic Consumers Association

Presence Marketing

Right to Know Colorado

Right to Know Minnesota

Right to Know Rhode Island

Rural Vermont                                       

Toxic Free North Carolina

U.S. Right to Know   

Vermont Public Interest Research Group

Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition