A national GMO labeling bill has been drawn up by U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee members. In a race against the clock to stop the Vermont GMO labeling law, they slapped a proposed amendment to the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946 together on Thursday. The compromise arrived at just before lawmakers end the current session this week. One which essentially spells out that there will be no GMO disclosure on food labels in the United States.
Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow (Democrat) and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (Republican) appointed to see the bipartisan agreement through, have yet to schedule a full committee vote. Due to the coming holiday, no vote will be taken until after Vermont’s mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods goes into effect next Friday, on July 1st. The Senate will not reconvene until Tuesday, July 5th.
If it passes the Agriculture Committee vote as well as the full Senate, it must also pass a vote in the House of Representatives and Congress before reaching the Oval Office for signing into law. There is no guarantee that the national GMO labeling bill will pass as is. Let’s hope it doesn’t, because many a consumer will still be wondering what the heck is in their food. Naturally, it panders to industry, complicates a consumer’s ability to make choices, will increase your cell phone bill, and isn’t available to every shopper. In fact, the way this bill reads, it’s likely there won’t be any GMO labeling on most food products if the manufacturer chooses not to do so. And no disclosure of genetically modified ingredients is mandatory for 2 full years, should the bill be voted into law.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute are both thrilled with the outcome, and why wouldn’t they be? Their lobbyists have been working overtime to get a national labeling directive that suits their members’ interests rather than consumer interests, but it appears that the bill may also contain riders or further loopholes. The bill’s opening wording (appearing twice in the top half of the page) says:
“To amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national disclosure standard for bioengineered foods, and for other purposes.”
Other purposes? Isn’t that interesting.
The bill actually spells out that getting the disclosure may require the consumer to call a telephone number using the store’s landline phone. Yes, store management everywhere will love having a queue of people without cell phone access at the service desk all waiting to use the phone. Seriously? At least that option is only for really small food manufacturers. Small companies whose products will grace less shelves due to the hassles this will cause retailers. But hey, that’s good for Big Food. It reduces marketplace competition.
The rest of them can use a QR code. So, if there is cell reception in the store, you will have to scan all packages to find out what’s inside. Can you see a bunch of concerned shopper huddled at the front of the store where the signal is strongest? Since it will be too much trouble to return undesirable products to their rightful place in the store, retailers might want to think ahead. Supplying shelving and coolers in a designated QR discovery spot for handy, yet orderly disposal of the unwanted items.
The QR scanner will automatically open your device browser and load a website. Do that with a few dozen products every week, and it will take a bite out of your data allowance, unless you happen to be in a store with WiFi. Is there such a thing? Perhaps the GMA needs to make that a given thing wherever food is sold, gladly covering the cost of installation and maintenance. The necessity was created for their convenience.
The verbiage also gives the Secretary of Agriculture the right to select the wording manufacturers must use to declare genetically modified foods in a product. Since this person is always a Monsanto affiliate, the words will likely not be anything the public is familiar with.
Debbie Stabenow thinks this compromise compiled as a bill to amend the Agriculture Marketing Act is a win-win outcome. Here’s a quote from McClatchy DC:
“This bipartisan bill is a win for consumers and families,” Stabenow said in a statement. “For the first time ever, consumers will have a national, mandatory label for food products that contain genetically modified ingredients.”
“However, food manufacturers would have wide discretion under the new law to comply, and the now-familiar terms “GMO,” “genetically modified” or “biotechnology” aren’t guaranteed to appear. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will determine what words can be used.”
The truly ridiculous part of the GMO labeling war is that these same companies have no problem labeling their products for export. Most other countries in the world require itemized GMO disclosure. They gladly comply, as long as the product won’t be sold in North America. Then it’s a battle against truth in labeling worth investing millions of dollars in. What’s up with that?
Even the Wall Street Journal wonders why there’s such a major issue with GMO labeling. After all, if you’re so proud of your product – why wouldn’t you want everyone to know what’s in there? Instead, they want to go out of the way to keep it hidden. But WSJ thinks it will put an end to unwarranted fears when consumers see it’s been everywhere all along. Somehow that doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m not a Wall Streeter.
Bernie Sanders supports his home state’s GMO labeling law, and will fight Senate approval of this bill. Using the week before the Senate vote wisely, the Organic Consumers Association plans to enlist their millions of supporters to keep the bill from passing. If that measure fails, launching a national boycott of all foods not labeled organic, grass-fed, or non-GMO follows.
By the way, you can read the full GMO disclosure bill at the bottom of the first link below. The article features the Governor of Vermont’s thoughts on the amendment penned to overrule his state’s mandatory labeling law.