What You Can Do About GE Food



Even though the proposed legislation (below) says 2002 – these bills will be re-introduced into the 108th congress sometime within the next two months (hopefully by June-July 2003). At that time the numbers on the bills and the date will be changed. However, you can still encourage your representatives now to co-sponsor the bills because they will be familiar with them as most of the bills have been introduced in at least the past two congresses. Rhio

Summary of Genetically Engineered Food Legislation

Genetic engineering, the ability to insert a novel gene into an organism, is a developing science that offers possible benefits and hazards. Genetic engineering is defined as something that has been altered at the molecular or cellular level by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes. This technology is totally different from traditional breeding techniques. Genetic engineering is a powerful technology. The ability to insert any gene into any organism breaks scientific barriers and creates new ethical quandaries.

Genetic engineering is having a serious impact on the food we eat, on the environment, and on farmers. To ensure we can maximize benefits and minimize hazards, Congress must provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all genetically engineered products (plants, animals, bacteria, and other organisms).

Current laws, such as our food safety and environmental laws, were not written with this technology in mind. These laws were not structured to deal with a new paradigm created by the novel scientific capabilities made available by genetic engineering. Therefore, clearer laws are necessary to ensure that these new scientific capabilities and the associated impacts are closely monitored.

H.R. 4814 The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act of 2002

Consumers wish to know whether the food they purchase and consume is a genetically engineered food. Concerns include the potential transfer of allergens into food and other health risks, potential environmental risks associated with the genetic engineering of crops, and religiously and ethically based dietary restrictions. Consumers have a right to know whether the food they purchase contains or was produced with genetically engineered material. There is also strong scientific rationale for mandatory labeling. It provides an opportunity for continual postmarket monitoring, allowing for the study of long term health impacts. Adoption and implementation of mandatory labeling requirements for genetically engineered food produced in the United States would facilitate international trade. It would allow American farmers and companies to export and appropriately market their products (both genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered) to foreign customers.

This bill acknowledges consumers have a right to know what genetically engineered foods they are eating:

1. Requires food companies to label all foods that contain or are produced with genetically engineered material.

2. Requires the FDA to periodically test products to ensure compliance (a threshold of 1% is established for accidental contamination).

3. Voluntary, non-GE food labels are authorized.

4. A legal framework is established to ensure the accuracy of labeling without creating significant economic hardship on the food production system.

H.R. 4813 The Genetically Engineered Food Safety Act of 2002

Genetically engineered foods present new issues of food safety. Given the consensus among the scientific community that genetic engineering can potentially introduce hazards, such as allergens or toxins, genetically engineered foods need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and cannot be presumed to be generally recognized as safe. The possibility of such hazards dictate a cautious approach to genetically engineered food approvals. However, FDA has glossed over the safety concerns of genetically engineered foods and not taken steps to ensure the safety of these genetically engineered foods.

This bill requires that all genetically engineered foods follow a strenuous food safety review process:

1. Requires all genetically engineered foods to follow FDA's current food additive process to ensure they are safe for human consumption.

2. Requires that unique concerns of genetically engineered foods are explicitly examined in the review process, a phase out of antibiotic resistance markers, and a prohibition on known allergens.

3. Continues FDA discretion in the food additive process in applying the safety factors that are generally recognized as appropriate.

4. Requires the FDA to conduct a public comment period of at least 30 days once the completed safety application is available to the public.

5. The FDA is authorized to contract out for independent testing of a genetically engineered food and to seek Input on the food safety process from the National Academy's Institute of Medicine.

H.R. 4816 The Genetically Engineered Organism Liability Act of 2002

The negative consequences of genetically engineered crops may impact farmers who grow these crops, neighboring farmers who do not grow these crops, as well as consumers. Biotech companies are selling a technology that is being commercialized far in advance of the new and unknown science of genetic engineering. Farmers may suffer from crop failures, neighboring farmers may suffer from cross pollination, increased insect resistance, and unwanted volunteer genetically engineered plants, and consumers may suffer from health and environmental impacts. Therefore, biotech companies should be found liable for the failures of genetically engineered crops.

This bill ensures that the creator of the technology assumes the liability resulting from the technology.

1. The bill places all liability from negative impacts of genetically engineered organisms squarely upon the biotechnology companies that created the genetically engineered organism.

2. Farmers are granted indemnification to protect them from the liabilities of biotech companies.

3. The bill prohibits any transfer of liability away from the biotechnology companies that created the genetically engineered organisms.

H.R. 4812 The Genetically Engineered Crop and animal Farmer Protection Act of 2002

Agribusiness and biotechnology companies have rapidly consolidated market power at the same time as the average farmer's profits and viability have significantly declined. Policies promoted by biotech corporations have systematically acted to remove basic farmer rights enjoyed since the beginning of agriculture. These policies include unreasonable seed contracts, the intrusion into everyday farm operations, and liability burdens. The introduction of genetically engineered crops has also created obstacles for farmers, including the loss of markets and increased liability concerns. To mitigate the abuses upon farmers, a clear set of farmer rights must be established.

Farmer Bill of Rights

This bill provides several farmer rights and protections to maintain the opportunity to farm:

1. Farmers may save seeds and seek compensation from biotech companies for failed genetically engineered crops.

2. Biotech companies may not shift liability to farmers, nor require access to farmer's property, nor mandate arbitration, nor mandate court of jurisdiction, nor require damages beyond actual fees, or any other unfair condition.

3. Farmers must be informed of the risks of using genetically engineered crops.

4. Biotech companies may not charge more to American farmers for use of this technology, than they charge farmers in other nations.

5. Seed companies must ensure seeds labeled GE are accurate and provide clear instructions to reduce cross-pollination, which contaminates other fields.

6. The EPA is required to evaluate the concern of Bt resistant pests and take actions necessary to prevent resistance to Bt, an important organic pesticide.

7. The bill prohibits genetic engineering designed to produce sterile seeds.

8. The bill prohibits loan discrimination based on the choice of seeds an agricultural producer uses.

H.R. 4815 Real Solutions to World Hunger Act of 2002

The demand for mandatory labeling, safety testing, and farmer protections do not constitute obstacles to the cessation of world hunger. Technologies, like genetically engineered food, may have a limited role, but economics remain the significant barrier to a consistent food supply, and the development of expensive genetically engineered foods may only exacerbate this trend. Most genetically engineered food products and almost all research funding for the development of genetically engineered food target the developed nation's agriculture and consumers. Developing countries cannot afford this technology and therefore are vastly ignored.

Agroecological interventions have had significantly more success in helping developing nations feed themselves with higher yields and improved environmental practices, all within reasonable costs for developing countries. If the biotech industry believes they can help mitigate hunger concerns, domestic or foreign, then requiring them to fund the effort to mitigate hunger is appropriate.

This bill offers several new initiatives and protections to help developing nations resolve their hunger concerns:

1. To protect developing nations, genetically engineered exports are restricted to those already approved in the U.S. and approved by the importing nation.

2. The bill creates an international research fund for sustainable agriculture research.

3. A developing nation may choose to mandatorily license a genetically engineered crop for the benefit of it's citizens. The bill prohibits any U.S. intervention that may block the mandatory license.

4. The bill establishes the Sustainable Agriculture Trust Fund with a small tax on biotechnology company profits. This trust fund will fund the activities in this bill.

Practical Things You Can Do Right Now

1. Urge your Congressmen/women to support State as well as Federal legislation (like the bills above) that provide health and environmental safety testing, farmer protection, and labeling for all GE foods already on the market and for those currently being reviewed for market approval.

a) Letters, phone calls, email messages, and visits to members of Congress are important ways to build support for mandatory labeling of GE food. Responding to constituent requests is a function of all congressional offices, but unless you are contacting your own U.S. Representative or Senators, it is unlikely that you will receive a response to your concerns. In other words, only Congress people who represent your own district will likely respond.

b) For all written correspondence, clearly indicate your name and mailing address on the letter or postcard. State up front that you are a "constituent" (i.e., live in the congressional district or state represented by that particular U.S. Representative or Senator, respectively).

c) To identify and/or contact your U.S. Senators via the Internet, go to the Senate's Website:
www.senate.gov To identify and/or contact your U.S. Representative via the Internet, go to the House of Representatives' Website at: www.house.gov To identify and/or contact your U.S. Senators via telephone, call the U.S. Capitol: (202) 224-3121. An operator will direct your call to a particular Senator or Representative's Office.

2. Write/Talk to your local grocery store managers about their store policy regarding GE foods. Also, direct your complaints to The Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), a national organization representing major food producers:

a) Ask your local grocery store managers if they cn tell you which items contain GE ingredients, and that you would like these foods labeled or taken off the shelves. Grocery stores normally allow customers to fill out a form, giving yu the opprtunity t make your complaints official.

b) Among your demands, ask managers to create or expand their organic food section.

c) Call or fax the GMA and tell them that grocery manufacturers should stand up for consumer's wishes. Urge them to stop promoting food that you don't want to eat. You can send or fax your written comments to the following recipient:

C. Manly Mopus
President & CEO
Grocery Manufacturers of America
1010 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 9th floor
Washington, DC 20007
Tel. (202) 337-9400
Fax (202) 337-4508

Submit comments via the web at: www.gmabrands.com/contact/feedback.cfm

NOTE: Please forward any written responses from store managers or the GMA to: The Center for Food Safety, 660 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 302, Washington, DC 20003.

3. Write or call companies that produce popular food products nd demand that they ban the use of GM ingredients in their products:

Below are food companies and their consumer hotlines:

*A&P Bird's Eye
(201) 930-4240 (800) 563-1786

Burger King Dannon
(305) 378-7011 (800) 321-2174
(or check local listings)

Del Monte Food Lion
(800) 543-3090 (check local listings)

Healthy Choice Kellogg's
(800) 323-9980 (800) 962-1413

Kraft M & M/Mars
(800) 431-1003 (888) 604-9529

McDonalds Nabisco
(check local listings) (800) 622-4726

Nestle PepsiCo
(800) 851-0512 (914) 253-2000

Pillsbury Procter & Gamble
(800) 767-4466 (800) 543-1745

Quaker Star Market/Shaws
(800) 856-5781 (800) 843-7827

*Includes Kohl's, Waldbaum's, SuperFresh, Food Emporium and other A&P affiliated stores.

NOTE: Most likely, these food companies will issue a letter of response to your concerns. Please forward any written responses from these companies to: The Center for Food Safety, 660 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 302, Washington DC 20003.

Additional information abut GE foods can be found at: www.centerforfoodsafety.org

Also look in links section of this website under Biotechnology.

Consumers deserve the opportunity to buy foods that are safe for human health and the environment. Thank you for helping us spread this important message. Should you like to discuss our legal and campaign actions in greater detail please do not hesitate to contact The Center for Food Safety by calling (800) 600-6664.

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