The debate over the labeling of genetically modified organisms contained in packaged food continues, as a hearing has been added to the House Energy and Commerce Committee schedule this week.
But this time, the pro-labeling efforts are spearheaded by some well-known names in the world of food. "Top Chef" producer and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio has been an outspoken proponent on the issue of labeling genetically engineered food and ingredients. He has urged chefs and consumers across the country to support labeling legislation.
The Dec. 10 hearing called "Examining FDA's Role in the Regulation of Genetically Modified Food Ingredients," is another face-off between groups that want labels on food that contains genetically engineered ingredients and corporations including Monsanto.
Efforts to mandate the listing of ingredients on the packaging of consumer foods have been knocked down on several previous attempts and many states have taken GMO labeling efforts into their own backyards. But the states' efforts may be undermined if several anti-labeling proponents have their way.
Pro-labeling consumer groups have squared off against several corporations led by Monsanto, which opposes measures to list GMO ingredients on consumer packaging. Monsanto is a leader in the biotechnology that enables the alteration of plant genes, specifically to yield products that are genetically able to resist its lead product, Roundup.
The FDA, the body which governs U.S. food safety, plays a significant role in the labeling debate. In May of 2009, President Barack Obama named former Monsanto vice president and lobbyist Michael Taylor as Deputy Commissioner of the FDA, which was considered a blow to the package-labeling movement.
But many regions of the U.S. have taken the law into their own backyards, as at least 20 states have introduced more than 60 bills that propose labeling packaged food that contains genetically engineered ingredients, according to the Center for Food Safety.
Chef Colicchio leads restaurateur and consumer groups that want to participate in discussion over labeling requirements as the Energy and Commerce Committee reviews a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) that would prevent individual states from labeling genetically modified food.
One of the standard arguments against labeling comes from companies and retail groups that claim it would be too costly and would increase the price of consumer goods. But a recent study by ECONorthwest showed that implementation of a national labeling program would cost less than $2.50 per person.
Many countries around the world have banned the use of genetically modified food, and others - including the European Union's 28 members - require labeling.