GMO Labeling Bills Are Gaining Attention and Support
Connecticut has made a big jump in the right direction in the fight to Label GMOs. The Connecticut state Senate approved the legislation late Tuesday night with a vote of 35-1. The bill's future in the Connecticut house seems grim, however, with criticism coming from majority democrats over concerns of the impact on neighboring states.
Senate Bill 802 will require food that is genetically modified to be labeled clearly with the words ''Produced With Genetic Engineering.'' The law will also require seed stock containers to be labeled if the seed contains GMOs. Furthermore, the bill will allow the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection to ban food items that are not properly labeled.
If passed, the bill will go into effect July 1, 2016, or as soon as July 1, 2015, if neighboring states Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania or New Jersey pass similar legislation. Connecticut House Speaker Bendan Sharkey is concerned about his state going out on its own on this issue and the potential economic disadvantages that could result. He said, “I would like to see us be part of a compact with some other states.” He hopes those states would include New York or some of the larger states.
The Vermont House has overwhelmingly passed labeling bill H.112 with a a vote of 107-37. Opponents of that bill are worried about the looming possibility of a lawsuit with the biotech industry. The bioscience industry says GMOs are safe and vows to fight labeling. The bill now stands before the senate. If passed, the law will go into effect after at least 2 years, or 18 months if at least 2 other states adopt similar policies. The bill has been watered down under the guise of avoiding lawsuits to exclude the labeling of meat and dairy products. GMO Salmon will still be labeled.
The 2013 Farm Bill has been followed closely, as concern has been that efforts of individual states will amount to nothing if the 2013 Farm Bill currently before the US House or Represenatives passes as presented. The bill passed an house AG comittee last week. The bill includes an admendment known as the Protect Interstate Commerce Act (PICA). PICA Prohibits state laws from being made that discriminate against goods produced by conventional production practices that are sold within a state's borders but are produced in another state. However, Senator Barbara Boxer has recently introduced an ammendment that would require national GMO labeling.
It is now time for citizens to contact their senators and representatives encouraging them to support the following amendments to the 2013 Farm Bill:
- Support Senator Merkley’s (D-Oregon) amendment (#978) to repeal the "Monsanto Protection Act" provision in the 2013 government spending bill that attacked judicial oversight of genetically engineered crops.
- Support Boxer’s (D-California) Sense of the Senate amendment (# 1025) in support of mandatory GMO labeling as well as her amendment requesting that FDA and USDA study the 64 countries around the world that already require GMO labeling (# 1026).
- Support Senator Begich's (D-Alaska) amendment (# 934) to ban the sale of genetically engineered salmon until Federal wildlife agencies are properly consulted.
- Support Senator Sanders’ (I-Vermont) amendment supporting the existing rights of states to enact their own laws requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Already this year 26 states have introduced labeling laws with the possibility of passage in a number of states.
In April, California Senator Barbara Boxer and Oregon Senator Peter DeFazio introduced The Genetically engineered Food Right-to-Know Act that is the first federal GE labeling bill to be introduced in the senate since 2000. The bipartisan labeling bill has been supported by over 100 organizations and businesses.
Already in 2013, 52 bills have been introduced in 26 states to require labeling of GMO ingredients. According to surveys, more than 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of genetically engineered foods. In fact, many consumers are surprised to learn that GE foods are not already labeled.
Currently, the FDA requires the labeling of over 3,000 ingredients, additives and processes, but the agency has resisted labels for genetically modified foods.
Proponents of GMO labeling just hit another road block when the United State Senate decided again Thursday that it does not want to allow states to tell consumers whether or not they are eating genetically modified food.
The Senate voted 71-27 against an amendment sponsored by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders tried to clarify that states can require the labels. He said his amendment was necessary since state legislatures that have passed GE labeling requirements and are being threatened with lawsuits by Monsanto, which says states don’t have the right to force such labels.
Both the Vermont House and the Connecticut Senate voted this month to require food companies to label genetically modified ingredients on their food packages.
Opponents are from farm states that use a lot of genetically modified crops. They say the government should leave the issue to the Food and Drug Administration, which does not require the labeling. They say it would be was expensive for food companies and therefore consumers.