Gene-Altered Food a Supermarket Fact: Lawmaker Wants Labeling Legislation

Article excerpt

The fight over genetically modified food has sparked a debate on both sides of the Atlantic over labeling and consumers' right to know what is in the food they eat.

Foods that contain such products include household favorites Frito-Lay Fritos Corn Chips, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Nabisco's Wheat Thins, Nissin's Ramen noodles and Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix - but the packages' ingredient listings don't include that information.

"Any food with ingredients from corn, soy, canola or cotton seed - including soy and corn derivatives such as lecithin, soy oil, soy proteins, corn syrup and cornstarch - is likely to be made with [genetically modified organisms]," according to the environmental group Greenpeace.

Bulk foods, such as soybeans, wheat, canola and corn, traditionally are comingled at the farm and throughout the distribution system; bulk imports may contain genetically altered food mixed with conventional food or feed.

"No individual has died of a [genetically modified food] in the world," said Per-Pinstrup Andersen, director-general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, part of the global research network Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

But that's not good enough for people like Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat and sponsor of legislation introduced this month that would require a special government notice on food informing consumers that it contains or has been produced with genetically modified material.

"Today's limited scientific knowledge warrants allowing consumers to make a better, more informed choice," he said.

About 60 percent of Americans would avoid genetically modified foods if they were labeled, a Time magazine poll showed. Some people want labeling on moral grounds, some on religious, while others say enough scientific studies haven't been carried out to prove genetically modifying food is safe.

"Vegetarians try to avoid all animal food," reads a New York Times ad bought by a group of 22 organizations - part of a coalition of 60 nonprofits favoring alternatives to current biotech practices, "but without labeling they can't be sure that animal genes have not been inserted into their vegetables. …