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Analytical Chemistry

Celebrity Chefs Ask Congress For Mandatory Labels On Genetically Modified Foods

Lobbying: Culinary artists oppose federal legislative efforts to block state labeling laws

by Britt E. Erickson
December 8, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 49

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Credit: Zagat Buzz
Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio is advocating for labels on GMO foods.
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Credit: Zagat Buzz
Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio is advocating for labels on GMO foods.

Popular chefs mixed with lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week hoping to stir up enthusiasm for mandatory labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Led by Tom Colicchio, a judge on the television show “Top Chef,” the renowned cooks urged members of Congress to pass legislation (S. 809 and H.R. 1699) introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) that would require labeling of GMOs in foods.

The chefs are pushing for mandatory labeling of GMOs in food not because they believe these ingredients are unsafe but because they want consumers to have “honest information” about what is in their food, Colicchio says. “We’re not here to address the science. We’re here to address the right to know.”

The group dished out a petition, signed by more than 700 chefs favoring the bill, to lawmakers at a news event organized by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), an organic farmer who supports GMO labeling. In addition to pushing for such labels, the petition encourages legislators to oppose efforts to block state GMO labeling laws.

One such effort, which food manufacturers support, is a bill (H.R. 4432) introduced earlier this year by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.). That measure would give FDA the final say over GMO food labeling and would nullify state laws requiring these labels. FDA currently favors a voluntary approach that allows companies to label GMO foods if they choose.

Despite the lack of evidence that foods containing GMOs pose a health risk, a growing number of consumers and advocacy groups are pushing for mandatory GMO food labeling. Three U.S. states—Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine—have enacted laws that would require such labels.

“Consumers have a right to know the facts about the foods they buy so they can better make healthy and informed choices,” says Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), who joined the chefs in calling for quick passage of H.R. 1699 and S. 809.

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