Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, has introduced a bill to develop a national labeling standard for foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that would pre-empt any state laws. Roberts scheduled a meeting to be held on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. to consider the bill, though this meeting was later postponed until next week. The bill would establish a national voluntary GMO labeling standard to be developed by USDA within two years of the bill’s enactment. The House passed a similar bill, HR 1599, last year.
GMO labeling has been a controversial topic in recent months. Opponents of a national labeling standard argue consumers have the right to know what ingredients are in their food and how they are sourced, often dubbing these laws DARK acts or the “Deny Americans the Right to Know Act,” which they say are anti-democratic. Vermont, Connecticut and Maine have all passed legislation requiring the mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs.
However supporters of the legislation claim a patchwork of individual state laws on GMO labels would be confusing and ultimately costly to consumers who would be hit with higher price tags as manufacturers accommodate additional labeling requirements.
Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, says, “This common-sense solution [the national law] will provide consumers with more information about ingredients in their food and beverage products and prevent a patchwork of confusing and costly state labeling mandates. We urge senators to stand up for working families, farmers and food producers, and give this proposal the bipartisan support it deserves.”