A Bill That Deserves to Pass:
Safety and Truth for Americans
Summary of "Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act"
This is probably the most important piece of legislation currently being considered by the United States Congress. Here are some details from the office of the bill's author, Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. (Some of you may recall he was the youngest-ever mayor of Cleveland some years ago.)
Purpose of the Legislation
Genetically engineered material has become a major component of many foods in the diets of consumers in the United States, but consumers are largely unaware of which foods contain or are produced with genetically engineered material. Consumers wish to know if the food they purchase and consume contains any genetically engineered material because of concerns over health and safety risks, environmental protection, and religiously and ethically based dietary restrictions. Minimal long-term research is available today, thus using caution while tinkering with our food supply is appropriate. This bill protects the consumersí right to know by requiring producers and manufacturers to label all foods that contain or are produced with genetically engineered material.
All foods that contain genetically engineered material or are produced with genetically engineered material must be labeled. Genetically engineered material is material derived from a genetically modified organism. For example, foods containing genetically modified soy and genetically modified corn would have to be labeled as containing genetically engineered material. Foods that contain milk from a cow injected with genetically engineered hormones would have to be labeled as produced with genetically engineered material. However, plant varieties developed through traditional processes such as crossbreeding are not considered genetically engineered. The labeling requirements apply if reasonably available technology can detect the presence of altered molecular or cellular characteristics in the food or if the original organism contained altered molecular or cellular characteristics.
Label for Genetically Engineered Foods
Foods that contain genetically engineered material or are produced with genetically engineered material must bear this label:
followed by this subtext:
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT NOTICE: THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS GENETICALLY ENGINEERED MATERIAL, OR WAS PRODUCED WITH A GENETICALLY ENGINEERED MATERIAL.
Verification System: A Two-Track Approach
At each stage of food production--from seed company to farmer to manufacturers to retailers--this bill requires the food entity to ensure the identity of its genetic origins. Foods that contain genetically engineered material must be labeled as such at each stage of food production. Furthermore, food entities with food that does not contain genetically engineered material will issue a guaranty stating the non-genetically engineered nature of the food. If a food entity holds a valid guaranty, they will not be subject to civil or criminal penalties under this bill if they fail to label a food later found to contain genetically engineered material. Farmers, manufacturers and retailers can avoid testing because they can rely on the labeling and guarantees. Thus, this bill establishes an efficient and highly effective two-track system to ensure that farmers, manufacturers, and retailers label all foods that contain or are produced with genetically engineered material. A guaranty defense already exists in U.S. food law with respect to adulterated and misbranded food for dealers who receive an item and transfer the identical item to another person.
Drugs will not have to be labeled under the billís provisions. Restaurants, bakeries, and other establishments that prepare food for immediate consumption will not have to label under the provisions of the bill.
Contamination of Non-Genetically Engineered Crops
Farmers who plant non-genetically engineered seeds will not be subject to criminal or civil penalties under this bill if surrounding crops grown from genetically engineered seeds contaminate their crops.
Although this bill imposes mandatory labeling requirements, producers and manufacturers may voluntarily label foods that do not contain or are not produced with genetically engineered material. However, because few manufacturers have voluntarily labeled their food product to date, mandatory labels are necessary to ensure the consumerís right to know. Under this bill, manufacturers who choose to voluntarily label their foods would be able to rely on the two-track verification system to establish that their food is not genetically engineered.
For more information on the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, please contact the office of Representative Dennis Kucinich at (202) 225-5871, or visit his excellent web site at http://www.house.gov/kucinich/index.htm
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