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On July 7, 2016, the U.S. Senate voted 63-30 to pass an industry backed, GMO labeling bill, S. 764, that makes a mockery of consumers’ right to know. The bill must be approved by the U.S. House and the President before becoming law.
“Consumers deserve transparency around something as fundamental as the food they eat and feed their families,” said Deirdre Cummings of MASSPIRG. “The bill that passed the US Senate will blindfold the public. The bill that passed is the bill that big Ag wanted, not the bill that 90% of the public wanted. It couldn’t be more simple: the public wants labels, the industry wants us in the dark, and while we greatly appreciate Senators Markey and Warren voting the right way, 63 Senators unfortunately chose the special interests over the public interest.”
The major failings of the Senate passed bill:
Non Labeling: Instead of a simple, uniform, easy to read, on-the-package GMO label, like the one in effect in Vermont today, the bill would allow companies to use symbols, 1-800 numbers, or QR codes that need to be scanned with smart phones.
Consumer labeling is only useful when it is simple, uniform and easy to compare, anything else doesn’t work and only serves to undermine consumer choice. In fact, poll after poll has shown that ninety percent of Americans are in favor of clear, consistent labeling.
Repeals and prevents adoption of real consumer labeling laws: Even worse, the bill would abolish the GMO labeling law currently in effect in VT, and those passed in ME, CT and AK, and prohibit other states from passing labeling laws, like the one pending in Massachusetts that is cosponsored by 154 of 200 members of the legislature.
Massive Loopholes: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is critical of the bill. Specifically, the agency argued the narrow definition of “bioengineering,” would “likely mean that many foods from GE sources will not be subject to this bill”.
Not enforced: The bill is essentially voluntary as there are no fines or penalties for companies that do not comply even with this weak law.
“The US House should oppose this sham industry bill and stand up for consumers’ right- to- know and their ability to make informed choices in the market place,” said Martin Dagoberto of Massachusetts Right to Know GMO. “It’s now even more important that the Massachusetts legislature pass its pending GMO labeling bill, joining with Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont, to set a meaningful national standard for labeling that is clear and simple, and demonstrate to Congress what a real consumer right-to-know bill should look like.”
Background: Legislation providing citizens with the basic right to know whether the food they are feeding their families contain genetically engineered (GE or GMO) ingredients has been introduced in more than 30 states, with Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Alaska already having enacted such laws. These legislative proposals have been met with fierce opposition from the biotechnology, farm, and grocery manufacturing lobbies that have spent millions to defeat legislation in the states. With the Vermont law going into effect on July 1, 2016, those powerful special interests have turned to Congress to undermine consumers’ right to know.
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