In America, we value our rights—things like free speech and the right to vote. Now, members of Congress are trying to bring another basic right to your dinner table—the right to know what you're eating.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) have sponsored new federal legislation that would require the labeling of all genetically engineered foods. (Genetically engineered ingredients come from crops that would have never occurred naturally in nature. DNA from one species is injected into another so plants can either produce pesticides internally or withstand heavy chemical sprayings. GE ingredients are often called GMOs, genetically modified organisms.)
The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act was introduced in both the House and the Senate and represents the first labeling bill introduced there in more than a decade.
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The April 2013 bill comes on the heels of what is now dubbed The Monsanto Protection Act, a rider that was mysteriously attached to an unrelated continuing resolution that funded government operations through September. The public became outraged when it learned about the rider, which protected chemical and GE seed companies like Monsanto if their products were challenged in court.
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According to the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, nine senators and 21 representatives have signed onto the bill as original cosponsors.
"Surveys have always found 80 to 95 percent of people wanting labeling," says Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union. "People are paying attention to food, and because of that they're more interested in GMO issues and buying food that's more local and food without pesticides and other added ingredients."
Despite the strong, continuing growth of the U.S. organics market, the country remains one of the only developed countries not mandating labeling of GE foods. China, Russia, South Africa, and Australia are a few of the 64 countries that have passed such mandates. As tension mounts to require federal labeling, 21 states are working on creating their own labeling laws.
Until food manufacturers are forced to label GE ingredients, you can avoid them by seeking organic foods, since organic standards prohibit the use of GMOs. Or you can look for meaningful certifications like Non-GMO Verified or GMO Guard Verification products (just know these don't ban the use of pesticides). Avoiding nonorganic processed foods can greatly cut down on your exposure to GMO ingredients, too, since nearly 80 percent of processed foods contain ingredients that have been genetically altered.
Published on: April 24, 2013
Updated on: April 25, 2013