The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has filed a legal petition on behalf of the “Just Label It” campaign with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “demanding that the agency require the labeling of all food produced using genetic engineering [GE].” Representing health-care, consumer, agricultural, and environmental organizations, the campaign has urged the public to submit comments on the petition to FDA and to question why GE foods are patented for novelty but remain unlabeled.  

The petition specifically calls on FDA to rescind its 1992 Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties, which evidently determined that GE foods do not require special labeling because they “are substantially equivalent to foods produced through conventional methods.” Instead, the petitioners want FDA to issue “a new policy declaring that a production process is ‘material’ under FFDCA [the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act] section 201(n) if it results in a change to a food at the molecular or genetic level because a significant share of consumers would find it relevant to their purchasing decisions.”

According to the petition, which cites scientific studies and court rulings related to Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn and the presence of growth hormone in cow’s milk, unlabeled GE foods have misled consumers by failing to “differentiate foods with known health properties from novel foods with unknown health consequences.” The petition also argues that FDA has “supplemental statutory authority” under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to require GE labeling on environmental grounds, including “transgenic contamination of natural crops and the wild, and massive increases in pesticide use.”

“FDA’s current policy uses 19th century rationale for a 21st century issue, leaving consumers in the dark to hidden changes to their food,” said CFS Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell in an October 4, 2011, press release, which claims that 90 percent of Americans desire GE food labels. “It is long overdue that FDA acknowledge the myriad reasons [GE] foods should be labeled and label these novel foods once and for all.”