State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) held a press conference to announce the introduction of legislation that would require the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food in Pennsylvania.
If passed, Senate Bill 653 would become the first law of its kind in the United States. It has already received support from national and local organizations and individuals including food cooperatives, organic farmers, environmentalists and food justice proponents. Despite the lack of legislative action on this issue so far in the United States, sixty-one countries (including Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, Russia, Malaysia, the European Union member states and other key U.S. trading partners) already have laws requiring disclosure of genetically modified organisms on food labels.
“I’ve introduced this bill not to ban genetically engineered foods, but to allow consumers to choose which items they purchase. I am concerned about the lack of information available about the presence of genetically engineered food, and I believe it is every consumer’s right to know what ingredients are found in the products they buy,” Leach said. “We can find out how much fat and sodium are in our food, with a full list of ingredients and nutritional information on every box, but we are not informed about the inclusion of ingredients that could be potentially detrimental to our health and wellness.”
The Center for Food Safety said that up to 85 percent of corn, 91 percent of soy beans and 95 percent of sugar beets in the United States are made with genetically modified organisms. Additionally, up to 70 percent of processed foods found in grocery stores have been genetically modified.
According to Food and Water Watch, consumers overwhelmingly support knowing whether genetically engineered materials are present in the food they purchase. In fact, polls have consistently shown that the vast majority of the public – more than ninety percent – favor the labeling of products with this information.
“As food production technology evolves, so should our food labeling. Consumers have a right to know which products on market shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients, just like their right to know calorie counts and salt content,” said Sam Bernhardt, statewide organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Whole Foods just announced they would label GE foods by 2018, but we can set the safety bar higher by doing it here and now.”
Leach said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently require or conduct safety studies of GE foods. Instead, any safety consultations are voluntary, and GE food developers may decide what information to provide to the agency.
S.B. 653 currently has twelve cosponsors.