Washington, D.C.—A bill that would require clear labeling of foods with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, called the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, has been introduced in Congress. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) are lead sponsors of the bill, which is similar to one introduced by Boxer and DeFazio in 2013 but not voted on by Congress.

“I applaud Senator Boxer and Representative DeFazio for their leadership, and urge their colleagues to join them, and stand up for the 93% of Americans who want to know if their food has been genetically modified,” said Tom Colicchio, owner of Craft Restaurants and co-founder of Food Policy Action, who was present at the bill’s introduction. The proposed legislation would put the responsibility of developing a GE food labeling policy on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In other genetically modified organism (GMO) food news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved two varieties of non-browning GE apples. USDA’s Animal and Plant Healthy Inspection Service announced it would deregulate Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden apples created by the biotech company Okanagan Specialty Fruits, based in British Columbia.

The browning effect that takes place on apple flesh when it is sliced or bitten is a result of the interaction between the polyphenol oxidase (PPO) enzyme and phenolics in the apples. Genes that suppress PPO are spliced into Arctic Apples from other apple varieties, allowing them to maintain a fresh appearance. The company’s president, Neal Carter, expects that the apples will first hit test markets in small quantities in late 2016.

“There is nothing more American than apple pie,” said Katrina Staves, campaign manager for GMO labeling group Just Label It, in reaction to the approval. “But with the approval of non-browning GMO apples, it is time that Congress realizes that transparent, informational labeling is just as patriotic.”

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2015 (online 2/23/15)