Genetically engineered (GE) food has been an issue of controversy since 1994 when the USA approved the Flavr tomato. This was followed by the subsequent introduction of these foods to the market (Cockburn 81). GE foods have been widely adopted in the market with 75% of processed food in grocery stores today containing ingredients of GE material (Lee 1). This is amid widespread resistance and debate with public concerns on the safety of these foods. The two opposing sides hold extreme positions with advocates viewing it as a revolution for the future while opponents consider it to be a tool for annihilation. Proponents argue that GE crops have higher productivity, are more resistant to diseases, and have the potential to produce foods with targeted health benefits. On the other hand, opponents argue that GE foods have risks that are not understood in both short and long-term, and have major ethical and social concerns (Brent et al. 409). Of the many issues of controversy regarding GE foods, labeling has been a major issue.
Despite the controversy and the prevalence of GE foods in the market, customers are not always informed if they are consuming these foods. The current regulations under the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require labeling of GE foods for three major conditions. These are; if the product has significant variation in nutritional content than those already in existence, if it contains an allergen that consumers would not normally expect, and finally, if the products have toxics beyond acceptable levels. These requirements are voluntary leaving the decisions on regulations with the industry (Chen and Li 2007). Currently, FDA on food labeling is guided by Drugs and Cosmetics Act that is only concerned with additives and not whole food products. The existing framework on regulation of GE foods labeling is deficient and does not consider the perceptive of the consumer. In realization of this, various efforts have been made to enact better regulations for GE foods. In 2001, state representative; Karyn Polito filed a bill requiring GE foods to be labeled (Sutner B8). Recent efforts early this year include the proposed Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act brought to the House of Representatives by Dennis Kucinich which requires labeling of all GE foods. A common theme for these bills is that the consumer should be allowed to make a choice on whether to consume GE foods or not.