All six witnesses at Tuesday’s House Committee on Agriculture hearing argued against mandatory biotechnology labeling laws. Most of their testimony praised the efficiency they believe GE crops provide to farmers and enumerated the costs they say labeling would inflict on farmers, manufacturers and consumers. they also brought up the safety concerns surrounding GE food. “Every major health and regulatory organization has found that GMOs are as safe as any other food and as such do not require any special labeling,” said Chris Policinski, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes. “This is what our own FDA has concluded and is further supported by a 2011 summary report from the European Commission covering a decade of publicly funded research, 130 research projects and 50 research groups, which concluded there is no scientific evidence of higher risks from GE crops.” According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, only 37 percent of the general public say GE foods are safe, while 88 percent of scientists say they are. Nina Fedoroff, senior science advisor for OFW Law, who previously served as the Science and Technology Adviser to Secretaries of State Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton, told the committee that most American consumers believe GE foods are unsafe because of “increasingly strident efforts of determined anti-GMO activists to convince the public that GMOs are bad.” Adding a GE label to food won’t actually help consumers make meaningful distinctions about safety because “GM foods on the market today are as safe as, and nutritionally equivalent to, their non-GM counterparts,” Fedoroff said. “There is no food safety or nutritional difference that requires an additional label,” said Thomas Dempsey, Snack Food Association president and CEO. “Going down a path which calls for mandatory GMO labels sets a bad precedent for future calls for mandatory labels for issues that are not related to food safety or nutrition.” But labeling proponents pointed to last week’s decision by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to classify the herbicide glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” as evidence that GE crops can negatively impact human health. “Glyphosate is used mostly on genetically engineered corn, soybeans, cotton, and sugar beets, but it is also used by everyday gardeners on their lawns,” said Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “The widespread adoption of GMO crops have led to an explosion in the use of a probable carcinogen,” Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at Environmental Working Group, told Food Safety News. And when the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to approve new types of apples that have been genetically engineered not to brown as quickly after being cut, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) noted that the alteration could lead to an increased health risk. “Pre-sliced apples are a frequently recalled food product,” CFS stated. “Once the whole fruit is sliced, it has an increased risk of exposure to pathogens. Since browning is a sign that apples are no longer fresh, ‘masking’ this natural signal could lead people to consume contaminated apples.” Last year, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act to give FDA the sole authority for mandatory labeling of GE foods and to prohibit voters from proposing initiatives for labeling GE food at the state level. The bill, dubbed by critics as the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know” (or DARK) Act, was reintroduced in Congress on Wednesday. In February, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) reintroduced legislation to require FDA to label foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. FDA currently supports voluntary labeling in which food manufacturers indicate whether their products have or have not been developed through genetic engineering “provided such labeling is truthful and not misleading.”