Last week, in a letter sent to the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Margaret Hamburg, 55 members of Congress expressed support for a recent petition to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The petition, which was filed with the FDA by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) last October, is part of the "Just Label It" campaign that currently has the support of almost 400 organizations and businesses. At the CFS' website focusing on the issue, the group has collected nearly one million comments from the public in support of its labeling efforts.
In their letter to Commissioner Hamburg, the legislators contend that the "FDA's regulatory regime for food labeling is inadequate and uses 19th century concepts to regulate 21st century food technologies." Noting that the FDA, in a 1992 policy statement, permitted genetically engineered (GE) foods to be marketed without labeling unless "materially" different from other (non-genetically engineered) foods, and "severely limited what it considered 'material' to only changes in food that could be recognized by taste, smell, or other senses," the group argues that "[t]he use of novel food technologies like genetic engineering on a commercial scale has so far slipped underneath FDA's limited threshold for 'materiality' because such technologies make silent, genetic, and molecular changes to food that are not capable of being detected by human senses."