Senators’ GMO ‘labeling’ defies public wishes

Special to the S-E

Despite clear polls showing 90 percent public support for labeling of foods with genetically engineered or genetically modified ingredients, U.S. Senators did a preliminary vote last week for no labeling on packages. Senate records showed 68 supported and 29 opposed a late in the game effort to nullify easy-to-read Genetically Engineered-Genetically Modified Organism food labeling.

The bill was a last minute scramble in light of Vermont being the first state to authorize GMO labeling (it passed the Vermont Legislature in 2014), with those labels showing up on shelves July 1.

Unable to market their foods in a state with 626,000 customers without the required labeling, General Foods, Mars, Kellogg, ConAgra and Campbell Soup all committed to being ready to comply July 1.

Commenting on the bill, Sen. Pat Roberts said it needed to be enacted now to avoid confusion in the marketplace. But as critics have pointed out, the marketplace had two years to prepare, and some chose to be ready.

In a “never say die” response to Vermont and elsewhere, GMO labeling opponents sought to find a way out. What they came up with has been hailed by the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association, Monsanto, DuPont and Dow as a “commonsense solution.”

Opponents disagree and have vowed to continue pursuing the right to know what is in food. That right also confers a choice about deciding how the food they eat is grown and how growing it impacts the environment. Some genetically engineered seed is designed to resist the killing effects of toxic chemical treatments, which has resulted in increased applications of agricultural chemicals.

The last minute bill was introduced June 29 by Sen. Roberts, R-Kansas and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan. They portrayed the bill as a “compromise.”

Sen. Stabenow commented on the bill: “For the first time ever, consumers will have a national, mandatory label for food products that contain genetically modified ingredients.”

Read the rest of this article in the July 6 edition of the Statesman-Examiner.