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Boston, MA – MASSPIRG today joined consumer and food safety advocates before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health in testifying in support of mandatory labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) food. MASSPIRG’s Alexander Scarlis encouraged the Committee to support comprehensive and forceful labeling language, and made reference to the labeling bills recently passed in Connecticut and in Vermont’s House of Representatives.

“The informed consumer is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy and functioning free market economy,” said Scarlis. “GE food labels directly support a fundamental consumer protection: the right to know.”

Currently, GE food is impossible to avoid because ingredients found in popular foods such as cereals, breads, salad dressings and snack foods are derived from crops commonly produced through genetic engineering, e.g., corn, canola and soybeans. In fact, the only way to avoid GE food is to buy organic, a hard-to-access and cost-prohibitive option for many people.

Consumers want to know what they are eating. According to a 2010 Thomson Reuters poll, 9 in 10 Americans support mandatory labeling of GE food primarily because they’re not convinced of its safety, and with good reason. The World Health Organization has pointed to potential health risks associated with human consumption of GE foods. Last year the American Medical Association called for mandatory pre-market safety testing of GE foods after reviewing the relevant scientific literature between 2000 and 2012. Yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts no such testing, relying instead on industry data provided when a GE seed producer chooses to participate in the FDA’s voluntary consultation process.

“Given the minimal federal regulation of GE food, potential health concerns and overwhelming consumer demand, Massachusetts has a compelling state interest to give consumers what they want: mandatory labeling of GE food. To do otherwise is to deprive consumers of their fundamental right to know about the food they eat and purchase for their families,” concluded Scarlis.

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MASSPIRG, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest advocacy organization that takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and well-being.                                                                                              

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