Our Right to Know: GMO Food Labeling

Earlier this month, Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Peter DeFazio circulated a letter to their House and Senate colleagues, calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require labels on genetically modified (GMO) food. The letter is open for Senators and Representatives to add their names for just a few more days, so it is urgent that we contact our elected officials now!

As the Boxer-DeFazio letter notes, Americans deserve the “freedom to choose what we eat and feed our families.” Opponents of labeling say it will confuse the public or imply that GMOs are unsafe. But as the Congressional letter points out, FDA already requires labeling of more than 3,000 other food ingredients, additives, and processes. Indeed, most new food additives are required to go through rigorous safety testing and once proven safe can be used only with labeling; in contrast, there are no requirements at all for testing GMOs, and they are not labeled!

Scientists and doctors have long warned that GMO foods could cause unexpected new allergies, harmful toxic effects, and alter the nutritional content of foods. In the decade and a half that GMOs have become widespread in American foods, there have been few safety studies, and almost no long-term studies to show what impact these foods may have in our diets.

But recently a team of scientists won a court order that gave them access to records from 19 animal feeding studies using GMO crops. Just one of the studies was longer than 90 days, the materials and procedures used were controversial, and results were often interpreted as showing no problems even when the data suggested otherwise. Nonetheless, the scientists concluded that the tests showed potential liver and kidney problems from dietary exposures to GMO foods, and stated that regulators should have required long-term testing before allowing GMOs into our diets.

Without this testing or labeling, we are all unwitting guinea pigs in the biotech industry’s food experiments. Urge Congress to fix this situation by requiring labels on GMO food.