Bush administration officials continue to oppose rules that would require manufacturers to label products containing genetically engineered ingredients.

But given that 90 percent of Americans support labeling of foods that include GE ingredients, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, D-Ohio, isn't ready to let the issue drop.

In his second major attempt to shepherd rules about GMO use, Kucinich in May introduced five bills to establish a regulatory framework for developing and introducting GE foods. All five bills were assigned to committee.

A few weeks later, at the annual meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Toronto, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said requiring manufacturers to label GM foods "will only frighten consumers. Labeling implies that biotechnology products are unsafe."

But last November, Rutgers University's Food Policy Institute polled Americans, and 90 percent said GE foods should be labeled. "Despite the biotech industry rhetoric, genetic engineering is not an exact science," Kucinich said. "The potential for unanticipated effects is real, and we must guard against these effects."

Kucinich introduced the "Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act of 1999," which was eventually offered as an amendment to the fiscal year 2001 agriculture appropriations bill. The amendment was withdrawn without a vote.

By introducing five pieces of legislation, this round of proposed rules gets at all of the key issues of working with GM foods, from consumer labeling to protecting farmers from liability. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is preparing a similar offering in the Senate. The bills are:

  • H.R. 4812, The Genetically Engineered Crop and Animal Farmer Protection Act of 2002. Protects farmers by requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate concerns about Bacillus thuringiensis-resistant pests.

  • H.R. 4813, The Genetically Engineered Food Safety Act of 2002. Requires all GE foods follow the Food and Drug Administration's current food additive process to make sure they are safe for human consumption.

  • H.R. 4814, The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act of 2002. Requires food companies label all foods that contain or are produced with GE materials.

  • H.R. 4815, Real Solutions to World Hunger Act of 2002. Addresses global hunger while restricting GMO export.

  • H.R. 4816, The Genetically Engineered Organism Liability Act of 2002. Makes the GMO's creator liable for any negative impact of the GMO and protects farmers from being accused of stealing technology when crops cross pollinate.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 7/p. 7