House GMO Bill

The House of Representatives passed by a vote of 306 to 117 a bill that establishes mandatory, nationwide labeling requirements for food products containing bioengineered ingredients. The Senate passed the bill by a 63 to 30 vote on July 7. The bill was sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. It was expected the president will sign the bill into law.

The bill nullifies the Vermont mandatory G.M.O. labeling law that took effect July 1. The bill requires food manufacturers to disclose the presence of bioengineered ingredients in one of three ways: text on the package, a symbol on the package or a link to a web site (a quick response code or similar technology).

Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the American Bakers Association, says, “A.B.A. would like to express its gratitude to the congressional leadership on both sides of Capitol Hill that worked to guarantee bakers can continue to provide their wholesome, nutritious products nationwide without the undue burden of individual state labeling laws.”

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the American Soybean Association and the International Dairy Foods Association also praised the House’s action.

“It is remarkable to see broad and bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate come together to pass this G.M.O. disclosure legislation,” says Pamela G. Bailey, president and c.e.o. of the Washington-based Grocery Manufacturers Association. “Republicans and Democrats found consensus on the common ground that a patchwork of different state labeling laws would be a costly and confusing disaster for the nation’s food supply chain. They also joined together to give consumers more access to consistent and helpful information about genetic engineering.”

The Center for Food Safety, Washington, and Jesse L. Jackson Sr., president and founder of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition, criticize the bill.

“Many groups, including the Center for Food Safety, have likewise condemned the bill that exempts major portions of current and future G.M.O. foods from labeling and is discriminatory against low-income, rural, minorities and elderly populations,“ says the Center for Food Safety, a national non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy  organization. “The bill as written is also a gross violation of the sovereignty of numerous states, as it preempts the genetically engineered food labeling laws in Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Alaska.”

Mr. Jackson sent a letter dated July 14 to President Obama.

“The G.M.O. labeling law's principal thrust is to rely on Q.R. codes (quick response codes) which shoppers will scan to gain product information relative to G.M.O.s,” he said in the letter. “However, 100,000,000 Americans, most of them poor, people of color and elderly, either do not own a smart phone or an iPhone to scan the Q.R. code or live in an area of poor internet connectivity. There are serious questions of discrimination presented here and unresolved matters of equal protection of the law. I am asking you to veto this bill and to send it back to Congress with instructions to correct this fatal flaw.”