U.S. groups urge labels for modified foods

(U-WIRE) The European Commission’s move to label a genetically modified variety of rice has some stateside grassroots organizations clamoring for strong government regulation for food products that have had their DNA scientifically altered.

European Union food products containing Chinese rice will require certification they were tested for safety beginning April 15. Recent poisonings in Japan linked to Chinese-made dumplings containing the genetically modified rice prompted the commission to enact the law.

The Campaign, a U.S.-based political action group said genetically modified foods have not been adequately safety tested and companies producing them are held to no special standard by the Food and Drug Administration, said Executive Director Craig Winters.

“People who have their own financial interest at heart are the ones interested in making genetically modified foods,” Winters said. All the European Union nations, Japan and Australia require the modified foods to be labeled, he said.

The FDA does not require genetically modified foods to be tested and labeled in the same way as new drugs or additives, but genetically modified products must follow the same laws as traditional foods, said FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek.

“We regulate genetically modified food just as we regulate conventional food — if a food is causing harm to the public we always take action by warning the public,” she said.

The United States is one of the world’s largest producer of genetically modified crops, producing genetically modified corn, soy, canola and cotton. Many processed foods contain soy and corn, and about 70 percent of foods in U.S. grocery stores contain genetically engineered ingredients, according to The Campaign’s website.

Organic Consumers Association National Director Ronnie Cummins said more people are turning to organic foods to avoid the dangers of genetically modified foods. He said the primary concern with the foods is the health and environmental hazards of the “untested technology.”

Greenpeace International genetic engineering campaigner Doreen Stabinsky, a global environmental politics professor at the College of the Atlantic, said no studies prove genetically modified seeds are free of negative long-term effects. She said having a chemical company like DuPont make genetically modified seeds is a problem, and having fewer non-modified seeds limits farmers’ choices.

At Boston University, the Slow Food group is pushing dining halls to use organic foods and is working to educate people on the effects their food choices have on the rest of the world. Slow Food works with BU Dining Services to improve the quality and sustainability of the campus food system.

BU College of Arts and Sciences junior and Vice President of the Organic Gardening Club Cordelia Hall said the genetic engineering process for modified seeds adds poisonous chemicals that are passed on to the consumer.

“Genetically modified crops are dangerous because these crops are manipulated to meet the demands of an industrial agricultural system, not the needs of human beings,” she said.

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