BIO Opposes Mandatory Labeling Bill Introduced by Sen. Boxer

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 23, 2000) The BiotechnologyIndustry Organization (BIO) issued the following statement in response to the bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) Tuesday requiring labeling of foods improved through biotechnology.

"BIO supports the right of consumers to have all informationallowing them to make informed choices regarding the foods they eat," said Michael Phillips, BIO's executive director of food and agriculture. "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) labeling policy for food regulates this information, making sure the information that appears on labels is accurate, truthful and relevant to the health and safety of consumers.

The FDA currently requires labels for significant changes infoods, including nutrient composition or the introduction of allergens. BIO always has supported this policy. Current FDA policy also allows food producers to provide choice by voluntarily labeling foods as long as the information is truthful and not misleading. For example, voluntary labels are used to identify Kosher foods.

"The labeling legislation introduced by Sen. Boxer attempts to fix a problem that does not exist," Phillips said. "Foods derived from crops improved through biotechnology have been subjected to more testing and scrutiny in advance of commercialization than any foods in our history."

The suggestion that foods derived through biotechnology arenecessarily different because of the process is contradicted by years of unbiased and authoritative scientific analysis. Labels, such as that proposed by Sen. Boxer, could mislead consumers. They may imply to some consumers that there is a difference between foods improved through biotechnology and foods improved through conventional breeding. In fact, there is no difference and this has been confirmed by thousands of studies.

"Sen. Boxer's proposed legislation overlooks the fact thatbiotechnology is the solution to many of the problems she purports to solve through her legislation," Phillips observed. "For example, biotechnology is being used by researchers in California to delete the allergy-causing properties of foods such as peanuts, thus removing a threat from the lives of those who have serious food allergies.

"Biotechnology also is being used to produce seeds that providefarmers with new, more environmentally sustainable ways to overcome the challenges they face from insect pests, weeds, disease and drought. And biotechnology is being used to develop high value-added plant varieties which will afford small farmers the opportunity for significant economic benefits."

BIO consistently has supported the public's right to know what we all eat. BIO also has consistently supported making sure the public gets accurate information. The only measures BIO has cautioned against are those that mislead consumers.

BIO represents more than 880 companies, academic institutions and biotech centers in 47 states and 26 nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental products.