February 22, 2000
Elisa Odabashian, 415-431-6747
West Coast Office
CONSUMERS UNION SUPPORTS GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD LABELING BILL
SPONSORED BY U.S. SENATOR BARBARA BOXER
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, announced its support today for a new bill introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that would require labeling of all genetically engineered food. Senator Boxer’s proposal calls for mandatory labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered materials or that were produced with genetically engineered materials.
“Consumers have a right to know what goes into the foods they’re buying and eating,” said Elisa Odabashian, Senior Policy Analyst with Consumers Union. “The government requires food to be labeled if it is frozen, irradiated, or from concentrate. Food should be labeled if it is genetically engineered.”
In 1999, 90 million acres in the United States were planted with genetically engineered crops, and over half of the soybean crop and more than one-third of the corn crop was genetically engineered. Despite the increasing prevalence of genetically engineered foods in the U.S., there is currently no mandatory safety review of such products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Consumer and environmental advocates are concerned that genetic engineering could introduce unexpected toxins or allergens into crops and have unanticipated consequences.
“While to date, there is no definitive scientific evidence that genetically engineered foods presently on the market are unsafe, there is still much to be learned about the long-term impact of genetically engineered foods on human health and the environment,” said Odabashian.
The debate over the safety and potentially negative impacts of genetically engineered foods has prompted a growing consumer demand for mandatory labeling. At a UN-sponsored meeting in Montreal in January, 130 nations adopted the Biosafety Protocol, which requires exporters to label genetically engineered agricultural commodities. In addition to labeling, Consumers Union has urged the FDA to establish a mandatory process to assure the safety of genetically engineered food.
“The only way to inspire consumer confidence in genetically engineered foods is through full disclosure – in other words, mandatory labeling,” said Odabashian. “Then the onus is on industry, with the backing of the scientific community and government as new information comes in, to earn the public’s confidence.”
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization, serving only the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.