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The Dark Act Passed

Discussion in 'Area Restaurants, Dining and Food' started by KTdid, Jul 8, 2016.

  1. KTdid

    KTdid Well-Known Member

    Jun 14, 2006
    Likes Received:
    The Senate passed a bill that would allow food companies to disclose genetically engineered ingredients without on-package labels.

    (Photos: Melanie Stetson Freeman/'The Christian Science Monitor' via Getty Images; Joseph Sohm/Getty Images)

    Jul 8, 2016

    On Thursday, just a week after Vermont’s first-in-the-nation
    mandatory GMO labeling law went into effect, the Senate passed a bill that would override it.

    “The GMO labeling legislation passed by the Senate last night falls short of what consumers rightly expect—a simple at-a-glance GMO disclosure on the package,” Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It, a pro-labeling group, said in a statement. But with a bill on its way to setting at least a GMO labeling standard at the federal level, Just Label It is looking to win ground with the USDA, which would implement the law, and in the marketplace.

    The bipartisan measure, which passed 63–30, will set a national standard for GMO labeling that allows companies a variety of options for disclosing genetically modified ingredients, including on-package labeling, a scannable QR code, or a call-in hotline. The bill still needs to pass the House, which approved its own bill that overrides state-level laws and sets a voluntary federal labeling standard, and be signed by the president before becoming law. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who cosponsored the bill with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., called the bill’s passage “the most important vote for agriculture in the last 20 years.”

    The USDA estimates that 24,000 more products would require disclosure under the Senate’s regulation compared with the Vermont law. But there are concerns that the specific language of the bill would provide a loophole for processed sugars and fats made from GMO crops that would not require disclosures.

    There was strong opposition, led by Vermont senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, who forced the late-night vote by holding out for the full 30 hours of debate required by a cloture vote. In a statement,
    Sanders called the legislation an outrage that “speaks to the power of big money in American politics.”

    “The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto, and other agribusiness spent hundreds of millions of dollars against the Vermont law and against other states going forward to protect consumers,” Sanders said.

    Numerous polls have shown that a significant majority of Americans support mandatory labeling for GMOs. But despite years of fear and concern over the prevalence of genetically engineered ingredients in the American food supply—the majority of both corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified—no research has shown that consuming such foods presents a risk to human health.

    Pro-labeling groups are far from celebrating the bill but see some potential in pushing the would-be law, and the industry it regulates, toward the on-package labeling option in the implementation process.

    First GMO Labeling Law Is Now in Effect

    “Pro-GMO labeling efforts now need to focus on effective implementation that delivers what all consumers want and deserve,” Hirshberg continued. “While we regret that Vermont’s landmark labeling bill will now be postponed, it is now certain that within a few years, every GMO food will carry an on-package disclosure.”

    Even if Vermont’s labeling law ends up being short lived, the tiny state will have a long-lasting influence on the food industry and its attitudes toward GMO labeling, which, until this year, the industry had staunchly opposed. But in the run-up to the law going into effect, and with Congress seemingly unable to pass a federal labeling standard, a number of major food companies—
    including ConAgra, Kellogg, General Mills, Mars, and Campbell’s—announced they would voluntarily label products containing GMOs nationwide.

    Campbell’s spokesman Tom Hushen told TakePart in an email, “We remain committed to printing clear and simple language on the labels of all of our U.S. products.”

    The Senate bill may very well end up giving the industry fewer accessible means of disclosing GMO ingredients other than on-package labeling. But even if that comes to pass, the Vermont law—and whatever form Congress’ response to it ends up taking—has introduced both mandatory and voluntary transparency into the marketplace for the first time since the first GMO crops were commercially produced in the early 1990s. And you can’t put the cat back in the bag.


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