Can U.S. Congress put a stop to state labeling initiatives?

The U.S. House of Representatives has introduced a bill which would set federal standards for GMO labeling. The bill is designed to address the patchwork of state labeling initiatives which have appeared in at least 25 states over the last couple of years.

It’s about time something was done. No matter how you slice it, state initiatives have been mostly weak-minded, misinformed and boisterous attempts to raise the status of organic farming, express disapproval of genetic engineering or just scare the heck out of people.

Those for mandatory GMO labeling say Americans have a right to know if their foods contain GMOs. But as numerous research has proved, there are no nutritional differences between foods made with GMOs and their non-GMO counterparts, or safety concerns either, so what’s the point of muddling up the a label with more wording? Several agricultural coalitions support the bill.

The need for the bill is simple. The possibility of multiple GMO labels for each food item – which may happen should state initiatives continue – would be a logistical and costly nightmare for food distributors, retailers and state agencies. If there is going to be a law for labeling GMOs, it should be unified and responsible, not reactionary. And the only way to do that is to make it a federal law administered by a federal agency.

Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association said of the proposed bill, “Foods made with genetically modified ingredients are safe and have a number of important benefits for people and our planet. Our nation’s food safety and labeling laws should not be set by political campaigns or state and local legislatures, but by the FDA, the nation’s foremost food safety agency.

 The legislation would require the FDA to conduct a safety review of all new GMO traits before they are introduced into commerce. FDA will be empowered to mandate the labeling of GMO food ingredients if the agency determines there is a health, safety or nutrition issue with GMO technology.

The FDA will also establish federal standards for companies that want to voluntarily label their products for the absence-of or presence-of GMO food ingredients so that consumers clearly understand their choices in the marketplace.

The FDA will also define the term “natural” for its use on food and beverage products so that food and beverage companies and consumers have a consistent legal framework that will guide food labels and inform consumer choice.

It makes good sense. Labeling of foods containing GMOs should remain voluntary unless a specific risk is identified by FDA. No doubt as the bill moves through the process over the next few weeks, the debate will heat up considerably.


TAGS: Legislative
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