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For those of you still crying into your Kashi cereal over the defeat of California’s Prop. 37 last November, there’s good news for you. California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio have introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to Know Act, which would require the FDA to label genetically engineered foods.
“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Boxer said in a statement Wednesday. “This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers, fishermen and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more — not less — information about the food they buy.”
Unlike California’s Prop. 37, which contained language dictating how the label would appear, the proposed federal legislation would leave wording decisions to the FDA. Food served at restaurants, “medical food” or foods made with a processing aid (including yeast) or enzyme would be exempt. Alcohol, such as bourbon, routinely made from genetically engineered corn, would also be exempt from labeling requirements because it does not fall under the FDA’s responsibilities.
In addition to the newly introduced federal legislation, 24 states have followed California’s lead and currently have GMO labeling initiatives in the works.
“This bill would not impact the ability of states to enact their own labeling laws,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for the Center for Food Safety. “But it would force the FDA to establish a uniform labeling policy.”
The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to Know Act has been co-sponsored by nine senators and 22 members of Congress. Only two Republicans have signed on — Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, both Alaska Republicans with a keen interest in labeling genetically engineered salmon should it eventually be approved by the FDA for human consumption.
California lawmakers who publicly support the bill include Jared Huffman, Jackie Speier, George Miller, Barbara Lee and Grace Napolitano.
Whether agribusiness and food industry giants like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Kellogg, Kraft and others pour significant funding toward opposing the new bill remains to be seen.
In California, those companies contributed $46 million toward defeating Prop. 37, but many took a public beating by consumers for their role, including Kashi cereal company, previously based in La Jolla, but now headquartered in Michigan with parent company Kellogg.
Clare Leschin-Hoar is a contributor to Voice of San Diego. Follow her on Twitter @c_leschin or email firstname.lastname@example.org.