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On July 14, 2016, the U.S. House voted (306-117) to pass an industry backed GMO labeling bill, S. 764, that makes a mockery of consumers’ right to know. The bill now heads to President Obama for his signature or veto.
“Consumers deserve transparency around something as fundamental as the food they eat and feed their families,” said Deirdre Cummings of MASSPIRG. “The bill that passed Congress will blindfold the public. It is clear that Congress acted in the interest of the big Ag and Food Industry and not that of the average consumer. It couldn’t be more simple: the public wants labels, the industry wants us in the dark. While we greatly appreciate the leadership of Congresspersons McGovern, Neal, Capuano and Clark, who all voted the right way, too many of the Massachusetts delegation, including Congresspersons Lynch, Keating, Kennedy, Moulton, and Tsongas, chose the special interests over the public interest.”
The major failings of the passed bill:
No Labels: Instead of a simple, uniform, easy to read, on-the-package GMO label, like the one in effect in Vermont today, the bill would allow companies to use symbols, 1-800 numbers, or QR codes that need to be scanned with smart phones.
Consumer labeling is only useful when it is simple, uniform and easy to compare, anything else doesn’t work and only serves to undermine consumer choice. In fact, poll after poll has shown that ninety percent of Americans are in favor of clear, consistent labeling.
Repeals and prevents adoption of real consumer labeling laws: Even worse, the bill would abolish the GMO labeling law currently in effect in Vermont, and those passed in Maine, Connecticut and Alaska, and prohibit other states from passing labeling laws, like the one pending in Massachusetts that is cosponsored by 154 of 200 members of the legislature.
Massive Loopholes: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is critical of the bill. Specifically, the agency argued the narrow definition of “bioengineering,” would “likely mean that many foods from GE sources will not be subject to this bill”.
Not enforced: The bill is essentially voluntary as there are no fines or penalties for companies that do not comply even with this weak law.
“The President should oppose this sham industry bill and stand up for consumers’ right- to- know and their ability to make informed choices in the market place,” said Martin Dagoberto of Massachusetts Right to Know GMO. “It’s outrageous that Congress has just nullified GMO labeling laws already passed across the country and taken away the ability of our own legislature to pass the broadly supported GMO labeling bill currently pending in the State House.”
Background: Legislation providing citizens with the basic right to know whether the food they are feeding their families contains genetically engineered (GE or GMO) ingredients has been introduced in more than 30 states, with Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Alaska already having enacted such laws. These legislative proposals have been met with fierce opposition from the biotechnology, farm, and grocery manufacturing lobbies that have spent millions to defeat legislation in the states. With the Vermont law going into effect on July 1, 2016, those powerful special interests have turned to Congress to undermine consumers’ right to know.
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