A Legislator's Argument for Labeling

Legislators are taking sides on the issue of labeling genetically engineered foods. A bill by Representative Barbara Boxer failed to pass, but here is her argument for labeling. She believes that Americans have the right to know if their food is genetically engineered.

February 8, 2000

Dear Colleague:

When Congress returns from the Presidents Day recess, I plan to introduce the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act. I hope that you will cosponsor this important legislation to require that all foods containing or produced with genetically engineered material bear a neutral label indicating that fact.

Recent polls have demonstrated that Americans want to know if they are eating genetically engineered food. A January 1999 Time magazine poll revealed that 81% of respondents wanted genetically engineered food to be labeled. A January 2000 MSNBC poll showed identical results. The European Union, Australia, New Zealand and Japan already require genetically engineered food to be labeled.

Last year, 98.6 million acres in the U.S. were planted with genetically engineered crops. More than a third of the U.S. soybean crop, one-quarter of corn and a third of cotton were genetically engineered. While this represents a 23-fold increase in genetically engineered crop production from just four years ago, the health and environmental effects of genetically engineered food are not yet known.

Given the rapid expansion of this largely untested technology, we should provide consumers with the right to know whether they are eating genetically engineered food. Congress has already provided consumers similar rights by requiring the labeling of foods containing artificial colors and flavors, chemical preservatives and artificial sweeteners.

Labeling genetically engineered food would not be unprecedented for the U.S. In fact, as part of a recent 131-nation agreement to regulate trade in genetically engineered crops, the U.S. agreed to label its international shipments of seeds, grains and plants that may contain genetically engineered material. If we can provide this information to our trading partners, shouldn t we make similar information available to American consumers?

Please join me in providing American families with the right to decide whether or not to eat genetically engineered food. For more information, please contact Lisa Moore of my staff at 224-3553.


Barbara Boxer, United States Senator


Explore More: Genetic Engineering
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