The issue of requiring the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMO) was brought before the U.S. House of Representatives years ago under HR4432, which came to be called “Monsanto’s Dream Bill”.
It has undergone some amendments and word changes to morph into H.R.1599 and is now titled the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2016”. The bill passed the House of Representatives in 2015; S.2609 is the active version of this bill and has been on the Senate calendar since March of 2016.
In June, “a bipartisan agricultural biotechnology compromise solution” was submitted to amend the bill and rename it S.764 (1).
This compromise clearly reflects the influence of bioengineering corporations, as it significantly softens the intent of the bill to require foods that contain GMO ingredients to be labeled as such.
- Discounts on bioengineered foods that are made from animals who consume GMO feed
- Establishment of a minimum GMO content in the package to require that it be so labeled
- GMO in foods sold in small packages will not require labeling
GMO content will likely be indicated on a label by a digital link or QR code rather than a written mention or logo. this means that you would require a smartphone and application just to find out what’s in your food.
Said digital link may land on an internet page with a telephone number you would then have to call for more information. This makes the process of making informed food choices much more complicated and downright inconvenient and annoying.
Worse yet, one clause states that food cannot be recalled if it doesn’t abide by the labeling requirements outlined in the bill. This means that all the careful regulations that would force companies to admit to using GMO ingredients will not be enforced.
What’s more, the bill will only come into effect two years after being passed by the Senate.
Gmo Labeling Laws Restrict Freedom
Perhaps the most important clause in the bill, the one that removes individual states’ authority from adopting its own regulations based on what their citizens want:
“…no State or political subdivision of a State may directly or indirectly establish under any authority or continue in effect as to any food in interstate commerce any requirement relating to the labeling or disclosure of whether a food is bioengineered or was developed or produced using bioengineering for a food that is the subject of the national bioengineered food disclosure standard under this section that is not identical to the mandatory disclosure requirement under that standard.”
“This means that state legislation already enacted in Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine would be superseded by federal legislation. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (D) describes this bill as ”a farce of a proposal…with the swift speed with which the proponents of this bill have moved, with no committee process, no debate or amendment process, we will not be able to ensure the language in this bill does exactly what they say that it does. Just take their word for it.” (2)
Laws regarding GMO labeling requirements have been proposed in more than 30 states. You can find an interactive map here of which states have proposed and passed labeling laws.
The debate over GMO food is a controversial one.
The long-term effects of GMO food on humans are unknown. Limited clinical studies are available, due in large part to the power and influence of the agribusinesses that manufacture GMO seeds and their associated pesticides.
There is, however, a significant body of research that concludes eating GMO food is detrimental to mammal health in a variety of ways:
- Increase cancer risk (3)
- GMO crops kill bees—human life will be literally devastated if the bee population continues to decline
- Causes allergies
- Contributes to internal inflammation
- Leads to digestive disorders, including gluten sensitivity
- Leads to organ damage
Worse yet, GMO plant RNA can transfer to humans, compromising our very DNA (4).
Consumers’ Right To Know
Regardless of which side of the argument you land on, if foods you buy aren’t labeled, there is no way to make an informed decision about what you choose to buy. With this bill, that is the issue.
Do you really want the government to determine what you do and do not have to know when it comes to food? Should it be allowed to override state legislation? The United States Constitution expressly and intentionally defers to States’ rights to govern themselves based on the will of the people (5). The decision on mandatory GMO labeling should, therefore, rest with citizens not corporations.
This past week, a report on the legislation was filed with the Senate Secretary by the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry (6). The text of the report is not yet available for public review.