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Regional Democrats urge FDA to label GMOs

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page, and our California News page.
Santa Cruz - Highlighting a growing issue in California and across the county, a group of 55 Democratic lawmakers on Monday urged the Food and Drug Administration to require the labeling of genetically modified foods.

A letter sent to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg endorses the approach taken by a group of environmentalists, food labeling advocates and organic food producers who are petitioning the agency to reverse a 20-year-old, hands-off policy toward alerting consumers to genetically altered foods.

"Two decades later, I think we've seen a shift in consumer dialogue. People want more information," said Colin O'Neil, a regulatory policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Food Safety, who praised the letter.

In 1992, the FDA declined to label genetically altered food, reasoning that if it looks, smells and tastes similar to non-modified foods, no label was needed. But later FDA rulings - including one dealing with irradiated food - have taken a stricter line and called for more disclosure.

"At issue is the fundamental right consumers have to make informed choices about the food they eat," the lawmakers' letter reads. "Labeling foods doesn't imply a product is unsafe or will be confusing to consumers as some may argue."

FDA officials could not be immediately reached for comment. More than four dozen countries require labels on genetically altered food.

The letter was signed by both California's U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and 14 Democratic members of Congress, including Reps. Anna Eshoo, of Palo Alto, and Sam Farr, of Carmel, the latter of whom represents the fertile Salinas and Pajaro valleys.

The federal petition is separate from a statewide initiative now circulating to put food labeling on the November ballot. The California effort would slap a general label on any genetically modified food, while the FDA petition aims to note which specific ingredients have been modified.
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