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Big Food and its allies in the US Senate have launched a sneaky new effort to kill GMO labeling. Senators are rushing to pass a bill designed to stop Vermont from requiring labels identifying genetically modified ingredients in food.
Vermont’s law went into effect Friday, although the state’s attorney general says he won’t enforce it until 2017.
The Senate could vote as early as next.
“Unless we act now, Vermont law denigrating biotechnology and causing confusion in the marketplace is the law of the land,” said US Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), the chairman of the agriculture committee. “Our marketplace – both consumers and producers – needs a national biotechnology standard to avoid chaos in interstate commerce.”
(Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s special episode on GMO foods here.)
Roberts and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) are co-sponsoring Senate Bill (SB) 764, which would impose a set of national standards to block Vermont’s GMO (genetically modified organisms) labeling efforts. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.
No other state has passed such a law that went into effect.
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“[The Senate bill] is not a labeling bill; it is a non-labeling bill,” Andrew Kimbrell, the executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said of SB 764. “Clear, on-package GE (genetically engineered) food labeling should be mandatory to ensure all Americans have equal access to product information.”
The Vermont law requires GMO labels on the product. The Senate bill, though, gives food companies three options:
- A label on the package.
- An electronic label, such as a QR code, to be used with smart phones.
- A symbol.
Additionally, small food companies would have the option of simply giving customers websites or telephone numbers where the information can be obtained.
Significantly, the Senate bill — which has the support of Monsanto and other biotech companies — also exempts foods where meat, poultry and egg products are the main ingredient. Those foods would not be required to have any information about GMOs.
The Center for Food Safety, in an email alert, said the Senate bill would infringe on state sovereignty. It also said the bill discriminates against low-income people and the elderly.
“The bill anticipates that GMO labeling will be done primarily through QR codes (‘digital’ labeling),” the organization said. “Because of their lack of access to smart phones, more than 50 percent of rural and low income populations, and more that 65 percent of the elderly, will have no access to these labels. This impact will fall disproportionately on minority communities.
“Millions more that do have smart phones may not be able to access these QR codes because they cannot afford to maintain their data service or their neighborhoods do not have adequate network coverage.”
This is the second time that Congress has tried to ban GMO labeling in the past year. The House of Representatives passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (HR 1599), but it died in the Senate.
To learn more about the bill and how to fight it, click here.
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