Senate Agriculture Committee passes anti-democratic, anti-labeling bill
WASHINGTON, DC (March 1, 2016)—Center for Food Safety has condemned a new bill introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts that passed the Senate Agriculture Committee today, which would preempt state genetically engineered (GE) food labeling laws, including the one in Vermont that is set to go into effect July 1. The draft bill was passed 14-6, and will now move out of the Committee. Three Democrats on the Committee voted to allow it to go the full Senate. Ranking Member Stabenow (D-MI) voted against the bill because it relies on voluntary, not mandatory, GE labeling.
“It is very disturbing that Republicans in Congress, while blocking any meaningful legislation, have found the time to push a law that deprives Vermont’s citizens their right to know about the food they buy, and could rescind over one hundred and thirty other state laws on food and seed. The Democrats who consented to pushing this bill forward will certainly be hearing from the food movement,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety.
With Vermont’s GE labeling law set to go into effect July 1 2016, big food and biotechnology interests have attempted to block its implementation, both through the courts and in Congress. The industry has for months sought action by Congress that would preempt states from passing GE labeling laws. Such a bill, called the DARK Act by labeling advocates, passed in the House of Representatives last summer, but efforts to include similar language in December’s omnibus spending bill failed.
Senator Leahy (D-VT) voted against the Chairman’s mark today and does not support what the bill intends to do. “This legislation moves production methods in the shadows; it gives agriculture a black eye…..it tramples on state’s rights”
Several Senators spoke about the potential of increased cost to consumers of labeling GE foods, but this argument rings false. In January, Campbell’s broke with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has long opposed mandatory GE food labeling and is currently under legal scrutiny for its multimillion dollar campaign to fight Washington State’s GE food labeling ballot initiative. The iconic soup company instead announced that in the interest of its consumers, it would label all of its products containing GE ingredients, as well as urge Congress to support a national mandatory standard of labeling. In an interview with The New York Times, a Campbell’s spokesperson noted “that adoption of the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which required companies to add nutritional information to their labels, did not significantly raise costs.”
64 countries around the world require GE food labeling and have not reported higher food costs as a result. Additionally, more than 30 states introduced legislation to require GE labeling in 2013 and 2014, with laws recently passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.
By an overwhelming margin, American voters say consumers should have the right to know if their food is genetically modified, with 89 percent in support of mandatory GE labeling, according to a new national poll. Nearly the same number of consumers would like to see the labels in an easy to read format.