House considers GMO labeling law

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate’s solution to labeling foods with genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs, is expected to garner a U.S. House of Representatives vote today.

The measure, S. 764, passed last week in a 63-30 Senate vote, is expected garner House votes before Congress goes into a six-week recess. The bill would nullify Vermont’s GMO labeling law, which went into effect July 1, and prevent any other state from enacting a labeling law.

Bennette Misalucha, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association said the organization is pleased with the Senate’s passage of the bill.

“We agree that this national standard is needed for bioengineered food labeling and disclosure to ease confusion within the marketplace that would be caused by a state-by-state patchwork of requirements,” Misalucha said. “It also ensures that consumers will receive consistent and reliable information.”

Hawaii’s Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said she’ll be opposing the bill, however, because the legislation would undermine states’ ability to mandate GMO labeling, exempt many common foods from labeling requirements, and create unnecessary steps for consumers.

“The GMO bill voted on by the Senate is a weak attempt to placate American consumers by creating the illusion of transparency,” Gabbard said. “This labeling system requires consumers to jump through hoops for information that should be very basic and straightforward.”

She said the measure also lacks teeth for holding companies accountable if they violate the labeling requirements.

“This bill is not a good compromise for American consumers and families, and I will do all that I can to defeat it,” Gabbard said.

Thursday, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono voted to approve the bipartisan measure, which would compel foods that include GMOs to carry a text label, a symbol or an electronic code readable by a smartphone.

“Regardless of your position on GMOs, most of us agree that we all have a right to know what is in the food we eat,” Hirono said. “I support a mandatory federal system for labeling and disclosing GMOs in food so that consumers across the country have consistent access to information no matter what state they live in.”

She said her plan is to work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as it implements the labeling standard established by the measure.

Sen. Brian Schatz voted against the measure, maintaining that the legislation “doesn’t meet the commonsense definition of a food label.”

“Labeling should be done on the package in plain language, or with an easily recognizable symbol,” Schatz told TGI. “The legislation passed by the Senate allows the labeling requirement to be met by putting a QR code on a food package, which will require that consumers use their smart phone to go to a website for further information.”

He said, instead of supporting the Roberts-Stabenow bill (S. 764), he’s on board with Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) labeling legislation, which “will give American consumers the information they need, offer food producers different ways to comply with the requirements, and provide a uniform labeling standard across the country.”

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