Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, urged members of Congress in a letter to reject the proposals contained in H.R. 4432, “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014,” introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), which would prevent states from establishing or carrying out mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) food, and which would allow GM foods to be labeled “natural.” The House Energy and Commerce Committee was to hold a hearing to discuss the bill on Wednesday, December 10.
“Consumers have a right to know what is in the food they eat, and the right to use democratic processes to obtain that information,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union. “Congress should not interfere with the ability of states to listen to their consumers and require labels on genetically engineered food.”
H.R. 4432 would also direct the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to continue its current policy, in which any labeling of genetically engineered food must be the voluntary choice of the food producer. Consumers Union supports mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food, and opposes H.R. 4432.
Consumers want labeling. Polls, including one conducted in 2014 by Consumer Reports, have consistently found that more than 90 percent of consumers say they want genetically engineered food to be labeled.
States including Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut have begun to act on the views of their citizens and have passed legislation requiring labeling of GM food. Other states, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Illinois, have considered bills. In addition, a November vote on an Oregon ballot initiative to require labeling of engineered food was so close it generated a recount, which is not yet complete.
Consumers Union also opposes allowing a “natural” label on genetically engineered food. Recent polling by Consumer Reports found that more than 60 percent of consumers believe foods labeled as natural do not contain genetically engineered ingredients.
“The natural label is extremely confusing and often misleading to consumers. To allow this label on genetically engineered food would only compound the problem,” said Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., Director of Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports testing earlier this year identified five food products labeled “natural” that actually did contain GM ingredients. H.R. 4432, by authorizing foods labeled as natural to contain GE ingredients, would authorize a deceptive practice.