GMO Labeling In Congress
Senator Stabenow and Senator Roberts GMO Labeling Legislation
On June 23, 2016, Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) introduced a compromise bill that would create a mandatory, national labeling standard for GMO foods. This bill was passed by the Senate on July 7th, the House of Representatives on July 14th, and signed by the President on July 29th. The USDA now has two years to implement the rules around this legislation and are currently working on a draft proposal that will be released in the fall of 2017.
Although this bill is the first mandatory legislation introduced in Congress it falls short of what consumers expect — a simple at-a-glance disclosure on the package. As written, this compromise might not even apply to ingredients derived from GMO soybeans and GMO sugar beets.
The DARK Act
In 2014, Vermont became the first state to require mandatory GMO labeling. Connecticut and Maine have also passed GMO labeling laws that will go into effect once neighboring states pass similar laws and other states are currently looking to pass GMO labeling legislation.
In response to these state efforts, Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) introduced federal legislation developed by food companies that we in the consumer rights community have dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know” Act (DARK Act). This anti-GMO labeling bill passed the House of Representatives in 2015 and Senator Roberts introduced similar legislation in 2016 that was DEFEATED on March 16th.
The most recent Senate version of the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” (DARK) Act, that was defeated, would have:
- 1) Preempted states from requiring the labeling of GMO foods.
- 2) Continued the current, broken voluntary labeling system by permitting companies to use 1-800 numbers, URLs, QR codes and even social media to provide consumers with GMO information.
- 3) Allowed USDA to determine what GMO information is provided through the voluntary labeling system.
- 4) Permited the USDA to require the use of 1-800 numbers, URLs, QR codes or other off-pack disclosure five
years after enactment.
- 5) Made it harder for companies like Campbell’s Soup to voluntarily disclose the presence of GMOs.
Americans want the Right to Know:
- Polls show nearly 90 percent of Americans support on package labeling of GMO food.
- 64 nations require labeling including Russia, China, the EU, and important trading partners in Asia.
- More than 4 million Americans have joined a petition urging FDA to require labeling of GMO food.
- Hundreds of food companies urged President Obama to honor his pledge to require GMO labeling.
Americans want an on package disclosure for GMO foods:
- New polling show that more than 88% of Americans want an on package label vs. a QR code.
- QR codes are not an effective way for consumers to get information.
Dispelling GMO Labeling Myths:
- GMO labeling will not increase food prices. Companies frequently change labels to highlight new innovations or to make new claims.
- Voluntary labeling will not work. Companies have been allowed to make voluntary non-GMO disclosures since 2001, but consumers are more confused than ever.
- There is no “patchwork quilt.” Current state GMO labeling laws are virtually identical, so there will be no “patchwork quilt” of different state laws. The responsible solution to concerns over a possible future patchwork would be the establishment of a uniform, national mandatory labeling standard.
- GMO crops do not feed the world. Conventional and GMO corn and soybean yields have increased at the same rate. What’s more, farmers produce only 4 percent of rice, wheat, fruits, and vegetables, and most U.S. corn and soybeans are used for animal feed and ethanol, not food.
- GMO crops have increased herbicide applications. Widespread adoption of GMO crops has increased annual applications of glyphosate – a probable human carcinogen – from 16 million pounds to more than 280 million pounds.
- GMO crops have led to more toxic herbicides. As weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, farmers have turned to more toxic weed killers linked to cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and reproductive problems.
Letters to Congress on DARK Act legislation: