On July 23, 2015, The House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599, or the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, voting 275-150 in favor of the bill. Among a number of other stipulations, the bill will require federal standards for labeling food products with GMO-based ingredients and preempt any existing state laws to that effect. After facing initial resistance on both sides of the aisle, the bill slowly curried significant bipartisan support, reflected clearly in the margin of victory. Now the legislation travels to the Senate, where resistance is expected to be significantly stronger. Should it pass the top level of the Congress, the government will eschew the presently-active state laws on GMO food labeling for a voluntary labeling program overseen at the Federal level.
The Organic Food Industry and “Right to Know”
Perhaps no singular entity is more in support of tightened state and federal regulation than the organic foods industry, which pins much of its popularity to the growing public stigma towards GMO-derivatives and the processed food industry. Public supporters champion the issue as a “Right to Know” imperative for public health, and voters in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine have already passed laws of their own to that effect, with Massachusetts close behind.
Should the bill pass the Senate, it will render these existing laws null and void.
“Today’s vote to deny Americans the right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown was a foregone conclusion,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization. “This House was bought and paid for by corporate interests,” Faber added in his prepared statement.
Skeptics in and out of the Senate
Many in the popular press have already posited doubts to the veracity of GMO-based public health concerns, joining the scientific community in underscoring the lack of a concrete basis for isolating genetic modification as a growing method that warrants specific labeling. H.R. 1599 is specifically focused on preempting a potentially-nightmarish patchwork of state-based GMO-labeling laws, one that would almost certainly prove exceedingly costly and difficult for food manufacturers to effectively navigate. The real question centers upon what, if any, regulations the federal government would enact of its own to replace the state-level legislation. As it stands, if the legislation were to pass, it would simply codify federal policy for GMO labeling, which currently resorts to largely ambiguous language, demanding labeling only for “...genetically-engineered products that are materially different from their conventional counterparts in terms of functional, nutritional, or compositional characteristics.”
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Last modified on Tuesday, 25 August 2015 11:52