As Congress reached an agreement on a year-end omnibus federal spending bill, a rider that would have blocked states from requiring mandatory labels on products containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) and derailed the laws already passed by Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts from going into effect.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which pushed for the inclusion of the provision, expressed disappointment with legislators.
“It is unfortunate that Congress has failed to take action this year to stop a patchwork of costly and misleading state labeling mandates, an issue of tremendous importance to consumers, farmers, food and beverage companies,” says Pamela Bailey, GMA president and CEO. “In January, food manufacturers will face exponentially increasing costs totaling hundreds of millions of dollars to comply with Vermont’s GMO labeling mandate.”
With some support from both parties in agreement genetic engineering should not carry a label to further stigmatize the technology, Bailey says she is hopeful a compromise to establish a national standard for foods made with GMOs in the coming year. Earlier this month, GMA announced SmartLabel, an alternative to mandatory GMO backed by major players in the food industry that uses scanning technology to direct consumers to information on a product’s ingredients and whether it’s sourced from genetically engineered crops.
The exclusion of the rider was met with applause from a number of consumer advocacy groups.
“We are very pleased that Congress has apparently decided not to undermine Americans’ right to know about the food the purchase and feed their families,” says Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. “Adding a rider to the budget bill that would nullify state laws requiring labeling and even forbidden federal agencies from mandating labeling would have been profoundly undemocratic and nothing short of legislative malfeasance. We will remain vigilant over the coming days and into the next legislative session to ensure our right to know is protected.”