Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would require labeling for all genetically engineered foods.

The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act (PDF) would require any food that contains genetically engineered ingredients be labeled accordingly by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If approved by Congress and signed into law, the United States would join more than 60 countries that require food labels to disclose genetically engineered ingredients.

"Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families," Boxer said. "This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers, fishermen and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more – not less – information about the food they buy."

Experts generally regard genetically engineered foods as safe to eat, but debate has raged over the long-term health and environmental consequences of tinkering with the genetic composition of food. Scientists have sought to increase the yield or nutritious value of crops by introducing genes from different organisms. Agricultural giant Monsanto has used genetic engineering to produce "Roundup Ready" crops, which are resistant to the company's herbicides.

The amount of genetically engineered foods has steadily grown over the past decades. Many Americans consume genetically engineered food, particularly in the form of soy and corn-based products, without knowing it.

"All over this country people are becoming more conscious about the foods they are eating and the foods they are serving to their kids," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), one of the many cosponsors of the bill, added. "This is certainly true for genetically engineered foods. I believe that when a mother goes to the store and buys food for her child she has the right to know what she is feeding her child."

The bill comes as the FDA is in the final stages of deciding whether to approve the first genetically engineered animal, AquaBounty Technology's salmon, for human consumption.

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[Young Woman at Grocery Store via Shutterstock]