In the absence of a federal law requiring labels for genetically modified food, 14 states are debating whether to mandate labeling for modified foods sold within their borders.
Since the FDA approved the first genetically altered material for use in food in 1992, the use of genetically engineered crops has skyrocketed; 93 percent of last year’s soybean crop was genetically engineered, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
The controversy comes as Americans show increased interest in their food — where it is grown, how it is produced and what it contains.
By-products of those crops — soy lecithin, for example — are found in thousands of processed foods from chocolate bars to breakfast cereal. Genetically modified ingredients are present in about 80 percent of conventional processed food in the United States, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade organization opposed to labeling measures.
Since the European Union rolled out the first labeling requirements for genetically modified foods in 1997, at least 15 countries have mandated it. In many of those countries, manufacturers have stopped using genetically modified ingredients in their foods because they fear the required label will hurt sales.