People have a right to know what is in the food they and their children eat. That is why 64 countries around the world have passed GMO labeling laws. That is why the states of Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Alaska have passed legislation to mandate labeling of food that contains GMO products.
Unfortunately, the major agribusiness and bio-tech companies disagree. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions to overturn the GMO right-to-know legislation that states have already passed and that other states are on the verge of passing. They have also spent millions more to pass federal legislation which would deny states the right to go forward in this area. And, in a few days, they may succeed.
On Thursday evening, with no hearings and no debate, a corporate backed bill offered by Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was introduced on to the floor by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
This legislation would create a confusing, misleading and unenforceable national standard for labeling GMOs. Instead of a uniform labeling standard like Vermont’s law, the language allows text, symbols, or an electronic QR code to be used. This is intentionally confusing to consumers, and the information may be entirely inaccessible if the consumer does not have access to the internet. The compromise language also allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture to rule on what percentage of GMO material is present in a particular food before it gets labeled, in contrast to Vermont and European Union standards, both which require products with more than 0.9% be labeled.
In addition, the bill contains huge loopholes in the labeling requirement, stating that there is no labeling requirement for GMO foods that could have occurred “through conventional breeding or found in nature.” Essentially, if the genetic engineering done by a company could have occurred in nature, there is no requirement to label it, which would prevent GMO corn, salmon, beet sugar, and soy oils from being labeled. The FDA has confirmed this loophole, stating that under the language as currently written, “many of the foods from [Genetically Engineered] sources will not be subject” to labeling requirements.
Perhaps most shockingly, this bill imposes no penalties whatsoever for violating the labeling requirement, making the law essentially meaningless. Thus, this is a weak bill, full of loopholes, without any requirement to comply.
Needless to say, I will do everything in my power to defeat this terrible bill. Stay tuned.
Senator Bernie Sanders