When you go shopping, would you prefer the food you buy to have GMO labels if it contains genetically modified organisms? States that wish to put such labeling into practice will be unable to do so due to a recent vote by the House of Representatives, Huffington Post reports. The vote bans states from passing their own laws to require GMO labels. Some states, such as Maine, Connecticut and Vermont, have already passed GMO labeling laws; under the ban, however, they will be unable to put the laws into practice.
As an alternative, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act was passed by the House with a 275 to 150 vote. The bill will allow organizations that would like to inform the public of their products that contain GMOs may do so on a voluntary basis. Companies that state their food has no GMOs must undergo a process of certification that the Department of Agriculture oversees, Huffington Post reports.
Under the bill material that has been genetically engineered can be defined as part of the “natural” label by the Food and Drug Administration. This was questioned by Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio, who said, Huffington Post reports, “I’m not quite sure when the last time was when a flounder mated with a tomato plant, but we now have tomatoes that have injected into them flounder genes.”
Those who support the bill said it was put in place to “keep the rules simple across the country and not unnecessarily frightening consumers,” according to Huffington Post. Republican representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas stated, “The fact is, the scientific consensus on the safety of genetically engineered products is utterly overwhelming. Precisely zero pieces of credible evidence have been presented that foods produced with biotechnology pose any risk to our health and safety. Given this fact, it is not the place of government, government at any level, to arbitrarily step in and mandate that one plant product should be labeled based solely on how it was bred, while another identical product is free of government warning labels because the producer chose a different breeding technology.” He added that the request to put GMO labels on food was a “naked attempt to impose the preferences of a small segment of the populace on the rest of us and make the constituents that I serve in Kansas pay more for their food,” according to Huffington Post.
Democrats, on the other hand, were largely opposed to the bill, citing surveys that showed the majority of consumers (90 percent) wished to know exactly what was in their food.
Democratic Representative Peter Welch of Vermont said, according to Huffington Post, “What this legislation is suggesting is that regardless of what consumers want, they won’t be told. This is not about a small group of activists. This is states like Vermont, like Maine and like Connecticut, with massive bipartisan votes, Republicans and Democrats, saying that they wanted to have the right to have these products labeled. We strip from the states the right to do what they believe is in the interests of their citizens and don’t substitute any serious label that would apply across the board.”
“This legislation, which should be called the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act, or the DARK Act, represents a major threat to consumer information,” Democratic Colorado Rep Jared Polis said. “States should have the right to determine their own local laws relating to GMO labeling, and the federal government shouldn’t interfere.”
“Americans have a right to know what is in their food and how it is grown,” Earl Blumenauer, Democratic Representative in Oregon, added. “Instead of undermining this progress, Congress should require mandatory GMO labeling at the federal level.”
Countries all over the world require GMO labels on their food. A countermeasure was proposed that would require the U.S. to do the same; however, it only garnered 123 favorable votes; 303 voters were opposed to the countermeasure.
Do you agree with the ban? What do you think of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act?