News & Politics

GMO Labeling Law Fails to Pass Senate

A bill that would supersede state and local efforts to mandate the labeling of GMO foods failed to pass the Senate yesterday. The Deny Americans the Right to Know Act (DARK) was blocked in the Senate with a vote of 49 yay and 48 no votes.

The purpose of the bill was to stop states like Vermont from requiring food makers to label their products if they are made with genetically modified ingredients. The bill is a federal run-around of state labeling mandates, instead leaving the decision to label GMO products a voluntary one by the food companies. Opponents of the federal bill say that consumers have the right to know if their food is made with genetically modified ingredients.

Vermont is not alone on the GMO issue — Connecticut and Maine have also passed legislation on the issue and bills are pending in 31 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The GMO issue is complicated.

On the one hand, the science on GMO is unsettled: some groups say genetically modified food is safe to consume and other groups say it’s not. The move to require labeling on GMO products implies, one might argue, that GMO food is unsafe or needs a “warning” on it. A warning label would probably hurt sales, hence there’s big-lobby money being thrown around on Capitol Hill to stop the states from interfering with food makers’ profits.

GMO labeling foes include trade groups such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, whose members have included PepsiCo Inc. and Kellogg Co., and BIO, which counts Monsanto Co., Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical Co., and other companies that sell seeds that produce GMO crops among its members.

On the other hand, why is the federal government steamrolling over the states? If voters and elected officials who answer to voters want to know if their food is made with GMOs , why shouldn’t they have that? Do Senate Republicans “know better”?

Sen. Claire McCaskill described the bill as “a major win for consumers.”

I don’t presume to know if GMOs are safe, but there are already food products that are labeled “non-GMO” or “organic” without the government interfering with “mandates.”

Some food retailers like Whole Foods, Campbell’s and Chipotle are voluntarily abandoning GMO products.

Senator Pat Roberts said yesterday, “I remain at the ready to work on a solution” — so it’s safe to say we haven’t heard the last of this.