Truth in labeling soon to be applied to GMO products

Posted: 03/14/2016 in Screwed

Usually this sort of thing comes out of California, but Vermont’s got the lead this time.  In 2014 the state passed a quiet little law stating that, starting in July of this year, all foods containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) would have to say so on their labels.  Now that July is almost upon us,  the US Senate, the Department of Agriculture, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (a trade group representing major food processors as well as agrichemical/GMO titans like Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow) are howling in protest.  They want more time to figure out how to beat this, since it’s almost impossible to label national products just to be sold in one state.

On the legal front, the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association sued Vermont in federal court to halt the new law, claiming the legislation “imposes burdensome new speech requirements” and violates the Constitution by “regulating nationwide distribution and labeling practices that facilitate interstate commerce.” The court ruled in favor of Vermont in 2015, and the GMA quickly filed an appeal, which is still pending.

Politically, GMA had a strategy in place before Vermont even passed its law. By 2013, the group had spearheaded expensive efforts to beat back labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington State. More state battles were clearly on the way. In an internal document uncovered that year by researcher Michele Simon…the GMA signaled it would pursue a federal law that would preempt any state labeling requirement. And the group was lining up cash—what it called “a long-range funding mechanism”—for the effort…

In the years since, the GMA has hotly promoted the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” known by critics as the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” (DARK) Act, which would nullify all state GMO labeling laws. The House passed such a bill in July 2015, and supporters tried and ultimately failed to push it into an omnibus spending bill at year end.

It has yet to make it through the Senate, but now the chair of the legislative body’s agriculture committee, Sen. Pat Roberts (R.-Kansas), is making a major push. In hopes of averting what he declared the “wrecking ball” of Vermont’s labeling statute, Roberts—a major recipient of agribusiness campaign funds—pushed a bill that forbid state GMO labeling requirements through the Senate ag committee on March 1. The GMA vigorously supports Roberts’ bill, but it remains in limbo…

Meanwhile, a group of Democrats led by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are pushing a rival bill that would require GMO labeling everywhere—essentially, taking the Vermont law nationwide. Food giant Campbell’s, which has broken ranks with the broader industry on this topic and favors GMO labeling, supports the Merkley bill. Yet it, too, currently lack the votes to win passage.

Personally, I want to know everything that’s dumped into my can of beans.  If that hurts “sales”, then tough luck.  The GOP is always barking about how we should let the free and open marketplace decide what does and does not “work” in our society.  I say, if they believe that, let ’em start with GMO labeling.


Be seeing you.

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