U.S. Rep. Bonior's Letter To The FDA Garners 49 Signatures
We want to thank all of you who contacted your U.S. representatives and urged them to sign U.S. Rep. David Bonior's letter to the Food and Drug Administration, which calls on the Agency to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Forty-nine Members of Congress signed the letter, which was sent to the FDA on November 5.
In addition, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has just introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives a new bill (HR 3377), the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, which would require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food.
Following is the press release announcing Rep. Bonior's letter, the text of the letter, and the names of the signers.
On November 5, Members of Congress called on the Food and Drug Administration to require labeling of genetically engineered food, declaring the issue an important food safety and consumer protection matter.
In a letter sent to the FDA today, Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.) and a bipartisan group of more than 47 representatives called the current FDA policy of not requiring labels for these foods "flawed." The signers conclude that existing law requires the FDA to provide thorough information to consumers.
"American consumers have the right to know what is in the food they eat, and that is the intent of the law already on the books," said Mark Silbergeld of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports Magazine.
The letter to the FDA comes before FDA public hearings to gauge consumer concern about genetically engineered food. The hearings are set for Chicago on Nov. 18, Washington, D.C., on Nov. 30, and Oakland, Calif., on Dec. 13. The letter also reaches the Clinton Administration as it readies for the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle beginning Nov. 29, where international trade disputes over genetically engineered food will be a centerpiece of negotiations.
Congress had been encouraged to take action by a diverse alliance, including religious organizations, farm groups, consumer groups, and environmentalists. "We stand united in our call on the FDA to immediately institute labeling of genetically engineered foods," said Richard Caplan, environmental advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Organizations that sent letters to Congress supporting Bonior's action include: Adrian Dominican Sisters o American Corn Growers Association o Catholic Healthcare West o Center for Food Safety o Citizens for Health o Consumers Choice Council o Consumers Union o Friends of the Earth o Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy o Mothers and Others for a Livable Planet o National Family Farm Coalition o The Natural Law Party o Organic Consumers Association o Sierra Club o Union of Concerned Scientists o U.S. PIRG o Women's Cancer Research Center
In July, the Natural Law Party delivered more than 500,000 signatures on a petition to Congress and the president calling for GE foods to be labeled as such. "We are grateful for Rep. Bonior's leadership in addressing this issue," said Laura Ticciati of the Natural Law Party. "Poll after poll clearly shows that the American public wants genetically engineered foods labeled."
FDA is already facing a lawsuit challenging its failure to require pre-market safety testing, labeling and full environmental review. The suit was filed by the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, Center for Food Safety, scientists, and members of major religious organizations. Joseph Mendelson, legal director of Center for Food Safety and lead attorney on the case, stated, "Today's letter acknowledges that Congress intended the federal labeling requirements to apply to situations like genetically engineered foods. The FDA can't turn a blind eye to action in Congress and the courts."
TEXT OF THE LETTER
November 5, 1999
Commissioner Jane. E. Henney
Dear Commissioner Henney:
We share your commitment to ensuring that the U.S. food supply is the safest and most reliable in the world, and applaud your good work in that regard. We are, however, deeply concerned about the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) failure to require the labeling of genetically engineered or modified foods. We are respectfully asking that the FDA reverse its course and require the labeling of these foods.
We believe that the labeling provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), which are intended to ensure that consumers are provided thorough information and are not misled about the characteristics of their food, require the FDA to label genetically engineered or modified foods. We therefore believe the current FDA policy regarding genetically engineered or modified foods is flawed. Without labeling and ensuring the right-to-know, consumers' interests are not adequately protected.
As you may know, there is overwhelming public support for the labeling of these food products. Despite a Time magazine poll showing that 81% of Americans want genetically engineered or modified foods labeled, the biotechnology industry and the FDA have kept these foods on the shelf without labeling or mandatory pre-market safety testing. It is particularly disconcerting that the effect of recombining the DNA for nearly 70% of all foods in U.S. stores is essentially unknown. The failure of the FDA to require labeling withholds vital information from consumers and is contrary to the intent and scope of the FDCA.
With these thoughts in mind, we again respectfully ask the FDA to reverse its course of action and institute requirements for the labeling of all genetically engineered and modified foods as required by current statute.
Thank you for your attention to this important food safety and consumer protection matter. We look forward to hearing from you.
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