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Marianne Scrivner
September 17th, 2013

National Groups Join Illinois Consumers to Rally For GMO Labels at Senate Hearing

Chicago—This morning, national consumer advocacy organizations, led by Food & Water Watch, Consumers Union and Organic Consumers Association, and hundreds of people, gathered downtown for a hearing called by Illinois Senator Dave Koehler, chair of the Agriculture and Conservation Committee, to debate the merits of SB1666, a bill that would require all foods containing over 1 percent genetically engineered (GE) ingredients to be labeled.

“Today’s tremendous turnout demonstrates that consumers and farmers alike are infuriated that biotech companies are not held to the same safety standards as other food producers in delivering products we can trust,” said Jessica Fujan, Midwest organizer at Food & Water Watch. “The overwhelming consensus from today’s hearing is that the demand to know what’s in our food has never been greater – it’s time to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs).”

“One big problem with safety assessments of GE plants is that there have been very few long-term animal feeding studies, with most feeding studies being of 90 days or shorter,” said Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Senior Scientist at Consumers Union, the public policy arm of Consumer Reports, who testified at the hearing. “A review of 94 studies found ‘a strong association was found between author affiliation to industry (professional conflict of interest) and study outcome’ in terms of health risk or nutritional assessment. There is a lot of industry bias in much of the feeding and nutritional studies involving GE foods and more independent testing is clearly needed.”

At the hearing, Professor Ann Reisner of the University of Illinois highlighted the lack of oversight the Food and Drug Administration has given GE food products. “Research on the long-term effect of a substance on human health depends on our ability to identify populations that do not use that substance, a process that would be greatly enhanced by labeling foods containing genetically engineered material,” said Reisner.

Biotechnology giants such as Monsanto and DuPont and groups like the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) have tried to thwart popular efforts to create transparent GE food labels in other states by threatening an increase in food prices.

“There is no evidence that food costs have increased due to GMO labeling in countries that require it,” said Patty Lovera, Food & Water Watch’s assistant director, who also testified at today’s hearing. “An impartial consulting firm did a study in 2001 for the UK Food Standards Agency and found GE labeling would only increase a household’s annual food spending by about $.33 to $5.58 in 2010 real U.S. dollars, inflation-adjusted, annually.”

The hearing was attended by the Senate Subcommittee on Food Labeling that will give recommendations to the full Agriculture Committee. Food & Water Watch has worked alongside Senator Koehler in the promotion of SB 1666 and with former House Representative Deborah Mell on HB 3085. Both bills will be reintroduced in the Spring.

Consumer Reports® is an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®, ConsumerReports.org® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our permission. Consumer Reports will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials, its name, or the name of Consumer Reports®.

Contact:
Jessica Fujan, Food & Water Watch, 773.796.6088, [email protected]

Naomi Starkman, Consumers Union, 917.539.3924, [email protected]

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.
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