Why Federal Labeling of Genetically-Engineered Food Matters

If we had to pick the most prevalent food issue of 2013 so far, the fight to get genetically engineered food labeled is probably it. Citizen-led campaigns have been successful getting legislation introduced in more than 20 states; inspired by California's Prop 37, which suffered a narrow defeat in November after chemical and Big Food corporations poured millions into the campaign.

But consumer demand for GE labeling is not a new development. For years, polls have shown that the majority of Americans want GE food labeled, just as it is in more than 60 other countries including China, Japan and Russia.

Finally, it appears that Washington is beginning to listen. Yesterday, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) have introduced a bill to order the Food and Drug Administration to mandate the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The bill has bipartisan support with 20 combined co-sponsors between the Senate and the House.

Clearly, the statewide campaigns have played an integral role in getting Congress to pay attention to the fact that their constituents want to know whether or not they're eating and feeding GE food to their families. And statewide initiatives continue to be critically important to ensure that consumers have the right to make informed choices about the food they buy. This is why Monsanto and its agrochemical colleagues will likely dump millions into misinformation campaigns to defeat Initiative 522 being voted on in Washington in November.

But even if Washingtonians prevail and I-522 makes GE food labels the law in their state, there will still be 49 other states where consumers will continue to be in the dark. This is why in the long run we need strong, uncompromising federal legislation to give all Americans the basic information they want about how their food was produced. Tell your Members of Congress to co-sponsor Boxer/DeFazio's legislation if they haven't already.