GMO Labeling: Food Safety Advocates Push Forward With Bills In Multiple States

GMO labeling laws have been introduced in 26 states. Connecticut and Maine are the only two states which have approved such laws but have yet to implement the new dictates. In 2005 Alaska passed a law to require the labeling of GE salmon. The FDA is still studying genetically engineered salmon to determine if it is safe for human consumption. More than 60 countries around the world already have nationwide GMO labeling laws.

A total of 80 percent of all food grown and sold in the United States is genetically modified. The battle pushing for nationwide GMO labeling laws continues to gain momentum. Organic farmers, health-conscious consumers, and food safety advocacy groups are leading “right to know what is in our food” charge. During a campaign event in Iowa then candidate Barack Obama made a similar promise, drawing large cheers from the largely agricultural community, but his administration has not fulfilled that campaign promise. A multitude of biotech executives from Monsanto and other major corporations, have been appointed to key positions in the USDA, FDA, and the EPA in the past several years.

Center for Food Safety representative Colin O’Neil said that he expects even more states to become active in the GMO labeling fight, and particularly noted Colorado and Oregon as prime battlegrounds. During the GMO labeling bill battle in California, biotech giants like Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPot, and BASF, among other top grocery brands, spent about $9 million to help defeat the GMO labeling initiative. “That sent a tremendous signal to consumers. Many were unaware that companies would spend so much to keep consumers in the dark,” O’Neil said.

A recent New York Times poll revealed that 93 percent of Americans want GMO labeling laws in their state, or at the federal level. Members of the food industry have claimed that adhering to a patchwork of labeling laws which vary by region or state would be both cost and time prohibitive. If the companies take a logical step and simply label all genetically modified food, there will be no extra cost to print a series of separate labels or risk running afoul of regional or state laws.

GMO Labeling Laws Roundup

  • The Hawaii House of Representatives revived a seemingly defunct GMO food labeling bill. The fate of the agriculture legislation still seems dire though, as it appears to have died in committee quickly after it as resurrected. Representative Jessica Wooley “gutted” a farm bill in order to replace the mandates it contained with GMO labeling requirements. Supporters of the bill stated during a state House Agriculture Committee that island residents have the right to know what they are eating. Committee members challenged the text composed and questions how the state would actually go about enforcing such a long. Representative Isaac Choy also wondered how officials would determine if a food product had indeed been mislabeled. Wooley ultimately deferred the bill indefinitely, so it the measure will not be considered during this legislation session unless a new effort to present such an initiative is made very quickly.
  • A Colorado GMO labeling initiative was recently granted approval to proceed after state Supreme Court opted to dismiss a challenged posed by food industry representatives and biotech companies. In order for Initiative #48 to appear on the November ballot, supporters must gather 86,105 signatures from registered voters by August. The Right to Know Colorado GMO group created the initiative. The food safety group is comprised of organic food retailers, farmers, consumer advocates, and general citizens who want to know what goes into the food they eat. If passed, the Colorado GMO labeling law would require that all modified foods possess a label which reads, “Produced With Genetic Engineering.”
  • A judiciary committee in Vermont is currently hearing testimony about the “legal ramifications” of a GMO labeling bill. The hearing is focusing on the likely legal challenges to the proposed genetically modified foods legislation. The food safety bill was originally introduced in the Vermont legislature in 2012. The Vermont Public Interest Research Group Consumer Protection feels that states have the right to protect the health and safety of residents and if passed, the GMO labeling bill would further that goal.
  • Florida is also pushing for a GMO labeling law. Supporters echo the “right to know” sentiments uttered in other states, while opponents appear to feel that so much of what we eat is genetically engineered under the supervision of the government, shoveling more of it into our mouths is no big deal. Florida House Bill 1, if passed, would mandate that all genetically modified raw agricultural commodities and processed food derived from GE ingredients be labeled. The Florida GMO labeling law was introduced by State Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda and is currently in committee.
  • A Massachusetts GMO labeling bill would require all such food and seeds be identified recently passed a significant hurdle. The state Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture approved the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act. The measure passed on this session’s deadline for committee approval. The GMO food labeling bill would require all raw unpackaged food be labeled regardless of whether it is placed on a shelf or a bin. The legislation stopped short of mandating the removal of a natural label from GMO food.

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