GMO Labeling Question Still Alive

MoveOn members to host GMO Labeling events; states are moving on labeling proposals

Published on: Aug 9, 2013

Members of advocacy organization MoveOn Friday will host 35 events in 47 states to call for labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms.

The nationwide campaign includes events that range from petition deliveries, non-GMO cookouts, rallies and "speak-outs." MoveOn said the events will be held in several states that have been receptive to GMO labeling in the past, such as Massachusetts, Vermont and California. The idea has also been considered in Hawaii, Washington and New Mexico.

GM OR NOT? Will food labels eventually say if a product is made with GM indgredients?
GM OR NOT? Will food labels eventually say if a product is made with GM indgredients?

Though interest is seemingly high for GMO labeling, it still has several hurdles to cross before the first law requiring it actually takes effect.

Perhaps the closest is Connecticut, where on June 25, 2013, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a law mandating GMO labeling even though four other states – one of which must share a border with Connecticut – have to approve a similar law before it can go into effect. An additional trigger to the bill's enforcement stipulates that the population of Northeastern states that pass GMO labeling legislation must be at least 20 million people.

Maine has passed similar legislation, while Vermont's senate has yet to consider legislation that passed through the House earlier this year. Last November, a ballot initiative in California to require labeling narrowly failed.

But there are federal considerations, too. Even if states mandate labeling, the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees all food labeling, does not specifically require GM labeling in most situations.

In an industry guidance document, the agency notes, "FDA has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding."

A handful of lawmakers are working to change that stance with legislation to amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to require that genetically engineered food, and foods that contain GE ingredients to be labeled accordingly.

The measure, which was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.in April, would direct the FDA to write new labeling standards.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., proposed a similar amendment to the farm bill that would make it legal for states to require GM labeling.

Meanwhile, GM labeling advocates such as the MoveOn members will continue to promote labeling through a variety of events, including what a taste test where passersby are asked to decide "which ear of corn contains GMOs spliced with BT Toxin, and which came from a local, organic farm," a statement from the group said.