February 23, 2000
Timothy Willard 202/637-8060


(Washington, D.C.) — The introduction by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California ) of a bill to require mandatory labeling of foods produced using agricultural biotechnology “is a classic example of putting politics ahead of science,” according to the National Food Processors Association (NFPA).

“In introducing this legislation, Senator Boxer demonstrates her apparent belief that Congress — rather than the Food and Drug Administration, the scientific community, or the food industry — is best equipped to address food biotechnology and consumer concerns,” said Kelly Johnston, EVP of Government Affairs and Communications. “She is responding to political pressure from activists, rather than to any real food safety concerns. This is bad public policy; the laws and regulations governing food safety must be based on sound, modern science, not politics.”

Senator Boxer’s bill is similar to a bill introduced late in 1999 by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), which NFPA has strongly opposed.

“We believe Congress has already given FDA the authority it needs to address safety and labeling issues concerning food biotechnology,” Johnston said. “Recently, FDA held a series of inclusive stakeholder meetings to provide a forum for the scientific community, farmers, the food industry, and consumers to provide input on biotechnology and FDA’s current labeling requirements. FDA is now considering this input, in order to determine if any changes to existing policy are needed.”

Johnston also pointed out that “This proposed legislation would exempt restaurants and other establishments that prepare food for immediate consumption. Current statistics indicate that nearly half of all food consumed in the United States comes from such establishments, so it is unclear why neither Senator Boxer nor Representative Kucinich feel such a requirement would be necessary across the board. Obviously, this legislation is not about consumer protection; it is about denying American farmers, food processors, and consumers the benefits this technology provides.”

Johnston noted that NFPA has long supported FDA’s current science-based biotech labeling regulations, which does not mandate that all foods produced through agricultural biotechnology be labeled, but which does have stringent requirements that foods be labeled if the use of biotechnology alters the food materially, or introduces a known allergen into the product. “It is important that consumers realize that, in making sweeping changes to food labeling law, this proposed legislation would modify or overturn FDA’s existing science-based labeling requirements,” he said.

“NFPA supports FDA’s ongoing effort to address issues related to strengthening the pre-market review of food biotech products and clarifying labeling requirements,” Johnston said. “We urge Senator Boxer to allow FDA, the food industry, and consumers collectively to address the issue of food biotechnology. The American public has far more confidence in FDA’s ability to make sound, scientific decisions on biotechnology than it does in the ability of politicians to do so.”


NFPA is the voice of the $460 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs.  For more information on this issue, contact Timothy Willard, NFPA’s Vice President of Communications, at (202) 637-8060, or Jason Whiting, NFPA’s Director of Media Relations at (202) 639-5919</b