Biotech Industry Complains as Congressional Bill is Introduced
for Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods

Lawmakers Seek Special Labeling

By Katherine Rizzo
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, Nov. 10, 1999; 6:18 p.m. EST

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.