Winners of the James Beard Foundation's Chef of the Year Award -- the highest honor a US chef can win -- helped launch the Keep Nature Natural Campaign at a press conference in New York City on Monday. The chefs joined campaign efforts targeted at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to demand mandatory labeling and pre-market safety and environmental testing of genetically engineered foods (GE foods).
"We are pleased that these notable chefs are supporting our efforts to tell the FDA that Americans want GE foods more strictly regulated and labeled," said Susan Haeger, president/CEO of Citizens For Health. "Their support boosts the issues of quality, safety, and choice in our food supply which are critical consumer rights."
Award winners Rick Bayless, Larry Forgione, Charlie Trotter, and Alice Waters spoke at the press conference. These chefs, and other active Award winners including Thomas Keller, Jean-Louis Palladin, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, joined the Keep Nature Natural Campaign because of concerns that genetic engineering is another industrial process that can lower food quality.
"It is important that citizens let the government know how they feel about genetically engineered food," said Charlie Trotter, winner of the 1999 James Beard Chef of the Year Award. "I have concerns that this untested technology diminishes the purity and taste of food."
1995 Award winner Rick Bayless added, "I don't want to buy and serve genetically engineered foods, yet because there is no labeling for these products that is challenging to do. The requests for mandatory labeling and safety testing in the Keep Nature Natural Campaign are reasonable steps for the FDA to take." Bayless is the chair of the Chef's Collaborative, a nationwide organization of chefs promoting sustainable agriculture.
"We're excited that the chefs have joined this important campaign," said Jim Slama, president of Sustain. "Such high profile partners add credibility and significance."
The press conference was held less than a week after the FDA announced its intention to release new GE policies that would, among other things, allow food producers to voluntarily label GE foods. "This voluntary labeling plan does nothing to help consumers, and puts the burden on the wrong food producers," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. "With no mandatory labeling, and only sporadic voluntary labeling, consumers will still be in the dark on which foods have been genetically engineered."
The Center for Food Safety, joined by a coalition of over 50 consumer, environmental, scientific, farm, and health groups including Citizens For Health and Sustain, submitted a petition to the FDA in March 2000 requesting mandatory labeling for GE foods and pre-market safety and environmental testing.
The Keep Nature Natural Campaign is a nationwide effort to generate public comment to the FDA in support of the Center for Food Safety's petition. Citizens For Health, Sustain, and the Center for Food Safety have joined forces in the campaign which will feature nationally-placed ads. Posters, fliers, postcards, and brochures are already available in retail outlets and through keepnatura web site. Wild Oats and Whole Foods Markets have also joined the campaign.
Citizens, Sustain (an environmental media group), and the Organic Trade Association partnered in the Keep 'Organic' Organic Campaign which helped generate over 275,000 comments to the US Department of Agriculture protesting the agency's originally proposed organic standards. Based on this overwhelming public concern, the USDA was forced to rewrite the standards, eliminating the use of genetic engineering, irradiation, and toxic sludge in organic.
Written by: Keep Nature Natural Campaign
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