Senator Dianne Feinstein of California today urged the Obama administration to change FDA food labeling regulations to include a provision for indicating when foods or ingredients come from a genetically modified source.
In a press release, the senator’s office included the full text of a letter sent to President Obama’s office (at the bottom of this post). The letter urges the President to re-evaluate the Food and Drug Administration’s “outdated” policy on labeling, indicating that the prevalence of genetically modified foods in the marketplace has increased dramatically since the policy was reviewed in 1992–over twenty years ago.
While some retailers voluntarily label genetically modified products, the practice is not required. The senator cites a New York Times poll from this summer finding that 93% of Americans support indicating on product labels when food contains genetically modified. Despite such a high level of support in public opinion, a state-level initiative in California to require GMO labeling failed to pass in 2012.
Because GMO foods are not currently required to be labeled one way or the other, consumers with preferences have a difficult time making informed decisions when they choose to buy products.
The full text of Sen. Feinstein’s letter reads:
Dear President Obama,
I am writing today to urge you to take administrative action to require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and ingredients. It is my strong opinion that consumers have the right to know whether their food originates from genetically modified organisms. Your administration should re-evaluate the Food & Drug Administration’s outdated policy that genetically engineered food does not need to disclose this fact on required labels.
It is my view that the FDA does have the authority to require labeling for genetically engineered food products. The Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act (FD&C) prohibits the misbranding of food articles, which includes if a label is “misleading.” The FD&C defines misleading to include a failure to “reveal facts material” about a food product. The FDA has interpreted these provisions in a 1992 statement of policy such that the fact of whether a food product is genetically engineered is not necessarily a material fact that must be provided to consumers.
Since 1992, the number and type of genetically engineered foods has vastly changed, including the pending application of the first genetically engineered animal, AquaAdvatage Salmon. It is also clear that consumer interest in whether their food is genetically engineered has increased dramatically, as a poll conducted by the New York Times in July found that 93% of Americans favor GE labeling. Given these facts, I believe that genetic engineering is clearly of material importance to American consumers, and thus the outdated policy position the FDA took over 21 years ago on labeling should be revised.
Please act in the best interest of American consumers and use your authority to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. Thank you for your time and consideration of my views. Please do not hesitate to contact me.
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator