Don’t Let the Big Food Lobby Block State Labeling

On the heels of the passage of mandatory genetically engineered (GE) food labeling bills in Connecticut and Maine, and the narrow defeat of the labeling bill in Washington State, the big food and chemical companies are going on offense. As Center for Food Safety reported last week [1], according to a draft bill outline leaked by Politico, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is proposing a federal voluntary labeling bill that would block states from passing meaningful mandatory labeling bills, redefine GE food as “safe” and even allow GE foods to be labeled as “natural.” [2]

Without mandatory labeling of GE foods, consumers are being left in the dark about the foods we are purchasing and feeding our families. There is overwhelming public demand—consistently near 95%—for the labeling of GE foods.  Yet the U.S. is one of the only developed countries in the world that doesn’t require labeling; sixty-four countries have mandatory labeling policies for GE foods including South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, South Africa, Australia, the entire European Union, among others. In 2013, over 50 GE labeling bills were introduced in 26 states, including Hawaii, Washington, Indiana, Missouri, and Vermont, with many more expected.

Action has already been taken at the federal level this legislative session: Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have introduced legislation that would require nationwide, mandatory labeling of GE products.

So why would anyone introduce another GE food labeling bill? Because industry will do whatever it takes to make sure you don’t have the right to know whether the food you’re buying is genetically engineered. Voluntary labeling of GE foods has been allowed by FDA for more than a decade and not a single company has “volunteered” to label its products as containing GE food. There is no reason to think they will do so now, when there is more support for mandatory labeling of GE food than there ever has been.

The introduction of this bill would only serve to undermine state and federal legislation meant to grant consumers the right to know and avoid GE foods. Attacking state labeling laws does nothing to address the increasing call from consumers for transparent GE food labeling. Instead, it gives the biotech and food industries yet another free pass and keeps consumers in the dark.

Tell Congress to oppose the GMA bill that would block state GE food labeling, and instead to support the Boxer-DeFazio bill to label GE food.

More information:

1. CFS Press Release: Leaked Document Reveals Big Food Lobby's Plans to Preempt State GMO Labeling (January 7, 2014).
2. Draft GMA bill outline leaked by Politico (January 7, 2014).

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