Health

BOXER CALLS FOR LABELING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD

February 22, 2000

Washington, DC U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right- to-Know Act to guarantee consumers the right to know if food products contain or were produced with genetically engineered materials. The bill also authorizes funding for a study of the effects of these products. To ensure a consumer's right-to-know, the "Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act" requires that all genetically engineered foods carry the following label:"This product contains a genetically engineered material, or was produced with a genetically engineered material."

In the United States in 1999, more than 25 percent of the corn and more than 33 percent of soybeans were genetically engineered. Within the next few years, the list of foods containing genetically engineered materials on the market could increase dramatically with such products as wheat, sugar beets, squash, and berries.

Boxer said, "Despite the prevalence of genetically engineered food, the effects of its use remain largely unknown because of a lack of studies. So there are two problems: Consumers don't know what they are eating, and there are no studies on the subject."

Boxer pointed out that U.S. products sold to a host of trading partners including Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and Japan already require genetically engineered food to be labeled. "If the U.S. wants to sell its genetically engineered food to these countries, they will have to label the food for foreign consumers," Boxer said. "It is only fair that American consumers be given similar information."

Boxer continued, "We don't know whether genetically engineered food is harmful or whether it is safe. However, enough scientists have raised concerns, including increased exposure to allergens, decreased nutritional value, increased toxicity and increased antibiotic resistance.

"In addition," Boxer said, "some of the potential environmental risks include the destruction of species, cross pollination that breeds new weeds that are resistant to herbicides, and long-term increases in pesticide use."

Boxer says that her bill has a great deal of support among the public.

You can read the Congressional Record of Senator Boxer's excellent introduction of the legislation and the text of the bill, S. 2080, on The Campaign's web site at: http://www.thecampaign.org/activities.htm#National


San Jose Mercury News February 23, 2000

Boxer would label genetically altered food

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Foods ranging from corn flakes to baby formula would be labeled as containing genetically engineered ingredients under a bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Some farm organizations worry that labels could scare consumers away from a significant and growing part of the American menu without any evidence that genetic engineering is harmful.

``It is not going to attract people or repel people,'' said Boxer, D-Calif., who earlier fought for labels for dolphin-safe tuna and frozen chicken. ``It gives consumers a way to vote with their feet.''

Her label would read: ``This product contains a genetically engineered material or was produced with a genetically engineered material.''

Corn flakes made with genetically altered corn would be considered to ``contain'' the material, and milk from a cow given bovine growth hormone would qualify as ``produced with'' the material, Boxer said.

A similar bill, with 44 sponsors, is pending in the House.

A group of 35 trade associations, representing grocers, food processing and business groups, sent a letter to senators urging them to oppose the bill.

Last year, more than one-fourth of the corn and one-third of the soybeans grown in the United States were genetically engineered. The Department of Agriculture has approved 50 genetically engineered plants, with wheat, apples and strawberries among the commodities close to reaching the market.

In January, snack maker Frito-Lay Inc. announced it would stop using genetically altered corn. The action followed last summer's announcement by Gerber and Heinz that they would stop using genetically modified ingredients in baby food, even though they believe the ingredients are safe.

Thailand has banned import of genetically engineered food seeds. Countries including Great Britain, Germany and Japan require labeling.


BIO Opposes Mandatory Food Labeling Bill Introduced By Sen. Boxer

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) issued the following statement in response to the bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) Tuesday requiring labeling of foods improved through biotechnology.

"BIO supports the right of consumers to have all information allowing them to make informed choices regarding the foods they eat," said Michael Phillips, BIO's executive director of food and agriculture. "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) labeling policy for food regulates this information, making sure the information that appears on labels is accurate, truthful and relevant to the health and safety of consumers.

The FDA currently requires labels for significant changes in foods, including nutrient composition or the introduction of allergens. BIO always has supported this policy. Current FDA policy also allows food producers to provide choice by voluntarily labeling foods as long as the information is truthful and not misleading. For example, voluntary labels are used to identify Kosher foods.

"The labeling legislation introduced by Sen. Boxer attempts to fix a problem that does not exist," Phillips said. "Foods derived from crops improved through biotechnology have been subjected to more testing and scrutiny in advance of commercialization than any foods in our history."

The suggestion that foods derived through biotechnology are necessarily different because of the process is contradicted by years of unbiased and authoritative scientific analysis. Labels, such as that proposed by Sen. Boxer, could mislead consumers. They may imply to some consumers that there is a difference between foods improved through biotechnology and foods improved through conventional breeding. In fact, there is no difference and this has been confirmed by thousands of studies.

"Sen. Boxer's proposed legislation overlooks the fact that biotechnology is the solution to many of the problems she purports to solve through her legislation," Phillips observed. "For example, biotechnology is being used by researchers in California to delete the allergy-causing properties of foods such as peanuts, thus removing a threat from the lives of those who have serious food allergies.

"Biotechnology also is being used to produce seeds that provide farmers with new, more environmentally sustainable ways to overcome the challenges they face from insect pests, weeds, disease and drought. And biotechnology is being used to develop high value-added plant varieties which will afford small farmers the opportunity for significant economic benefits."

BIO consistently has supported the public's right to know what we all eat. BIO also has consistently supported making sure the public gets accurate information. The only measures BIO has cautioned against are those that mislead consumers.

BIO represents more than 880 companies, academic institutions and biotech centers in 47 states and 26 nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental products.

SOURCE Biotechnology Industry Organization


NFPA Faults Introduction of Biotech Labeling Bill, Saying Legislation Puts Politics Ahead of Science'

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The introduction by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) of a bill to require mandatory labeling of foods produced using agricultural biotechnology "is a classic example of putting politics ahead of science," according to the National Food Processors Association (NFPA).

"In introducing this legislation, Senator Boxer demonstrates her apparent belief that Congress -- rather than the Food and Drug Administration, the scientific community, or the food industry -- is best equipped to address food biotechnology and consumer concerns," said Kelly Johnston, EVP of Government Affairs and Communications. "She is responding to political pressure from activists, rather than to any real food safety concerns. This is bad public policy; the laws and regulations governing food safety must be based on sound, modern science, not politics."

Senator Boxer's bill is similar to a bill introduced late in 1999 by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), which NFPA has strongly opposed.

"We believe Congress has already given FDA the authority it needs to address safety and labeling issues concerning food biotechnology," Johnston said. "Recently, FDA held a series of inclusive stakeholder meetings to provide a forum for the scientific community, farmers, the food industry, and consumers to provide input on biotechnology and FDA's current labeling requirements. FDA is now considering this input, in order to determine if any changes to existing policy are needed."

Johnston also pointed out that "This proposed legislation would exempt restaurants and other establishments that prepare food for immediate consumption. Current statistics indicate that nearly half of all food consumed in the United States comes from such establishments, so it is unclear why neither Senator Boxer nor Representative Kucinich feel such a requirement would be necessary across the board. Obviously, this legislation is not about consumer protection; it is about denying American farmers, food processors, and consumers the benefits this technology provides."

Johnston noted that NFPA has long supported FDA's current science-based biotech labeling regulations, which does not mandate that all foods produced through agricultural biotechnology be labeled, but which does have stringent requirements that foods be labeled if the use of biotechnology alters the food materially, or introduces a known allergen into the product. "It is important that consumers realize that, in making sweeping changes to food labeling law, this proposed legislation would modify or overturn FDA's existing science- based labeling requirements," he said.

"NFPA supports FDA's ongoing effort to address issues related to strengthening the pre-market review of food biotech products and clarifying labeling requirements," Johnston said. "We urge Senator Boxer to allow FDA, the food industry, and consumers collectively to address the issue of food biotechnology. The American public has far more confidence in FDA's ability to make sound, scientific decisions on biotechnology than it does in the ability of politicians to do so."

NFPA is the voice of the $460 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs.

SOURCE National Food Processors Association


GMA, Major Trade Groups Urge Lawmakers to Oppose Boxer Biotech Labeling Bill;Measure Would Result in 'Consumer Confusion, Not Education'

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Mandatory labeling of products developed through biotechnology "would result in consumer confusion, not consumer education," said 35 leading trade associations in letters sent to every member of the Senate.

The Grocery Manufacturers of America was among several major food, farm, retailer, and manufacturer groups that urged lawmakers to oppose a mandatory labeling bill being introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Her bill is similar to one introduced in the House by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

"We want to remind Senators that the Federal government has a science- based framework in place to regulate products developed through biotechnology," said Karil Kochenderfer, GMA Director, International Trade and Environmental Affairs, in a separate statement.

The trade groups noted that the products of biotechnology are safe and have cleared regulatory hurdles at the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Agriculture. "These products would not be allowed on the market if they had not met the highest U.S. safety standards," the letters said.

The legislation "would require labeling on all biotech food, food ingredients, dietary supplements, feed and products from animals fed biotech commodities. This would require segregation from farm to supermarket, and would result in higher food costs and lower farm prices."

"FDA already has a labeling policy in place that requires mandatory labeling if products of biotechnology differ from traditional products in terms of their composition, their nutritional content, or their allergenicity. We believe that mandating special labeling would imply to consumers that these products are somehow different or less safe than other products."

A copy of the letter is available on GMA's Web site at www.gmabrands.com. For more information, contact Brian Sansoni at 202-337-9400 x3957.

GMA is the world's largest association of food, beverage and consumer product companies. With U.S. sales of more than $450 billion, GMA members employ more than 2.5 million workers in all 50 states. The organization applies legal, scientific and political expertise from its member companies to vital food, nutrition and public policy issues affecting the industry. Led by a board of 44 Chief Executive Officers, GMA speaks for food and consumer product manufacturers at the state, federal and international levels on legislative and regulatory issues. The association also leads efforts to increase productivity, efficiency and growth in the food, beverage and consumer products industry.

SOURCE Grocery Manufacturers of America

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