Background: Legislation providing citizens with the basic right to know whether the food they are feeding to their families contain genetically engineered (GE or GMO) ingredients has been introduced in more than 30 states with Vermont, Connecticut and Maine enacting GMO labeling laws. These legislative proposals have been met with fierce opposition from the biotechnology, farm and grocery manufacturers lobbies that have spent millions to defeat legislation in the states. With the Vermont law set to become effective on July 1, 2016, those powerful special interests have turned to Congress for relief.
On March 16, 2016, the U.S. Senate refused to consider legislation introduced by Sen. Roberts (R-KS), Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, to preempt state GE legislation and impose a voluntary GE labeling standard (S.2609). The strong bi-partisan vote to defeat the Roberts’ bill, labeled the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know), was in response to the demand of millions of consumers nationwide. Subsequent to the vote, General Mills, Mars, ConAgra and other large food companies joined Campbells Soups in announcing plans to label products containing GE ingredients.
Statement: “The message from consumers to Congress regarding the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) products and ingredients has been crystal clear from Day 1 – only a mandatory national standard requiring prominent, on-package labeling is acceptable in legislation preempting state GE labeling laws. QR codes, smart labels and other off-package labeling are unacceptable alternatives. Consumers who do not want GE products or ingredients should not need to have smart phones, download apps or spend time searching the web for information that should be readily available on the product that’s in their hand when they are grocery shopping.
The compromise proposal reached by Senators Stabenow and Roberts allows companies the option of using off-packaging labeling which makes it harder, if not impossible, for all consumers to know whether products contain GE products and ingredients and falls far short of our expectations for a national mandatory GE labeling standard. We oppose the Stabenow-Roberts GE labeling compromise and urge all Senators to once again hear the voices of the 90% of Americans who demand nothing short of mandatory, on-package labeling of all GE products and ingredients and vote “no” on the compromise.”
There is a mandatory GMO labeling bill pending in the Massachusetts legislature cosponsored by 154 of 200 members.