Voluntary, Mandatory, State-Driven...Duking out a National Food Policy

Just when I told you the voluntary GMO labeling bill led by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) passed out of the ag committee, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced an alternative bill that aims to mandate GMO labeling through the Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act.  

Unlike Roberts' bill which is supported by the large trade associations and many food companies, Merkley's bill - which was also introduced by Senators Leahy (D-VT), Tester (D-MT) and Feinstein (D-CA) - is supported by companies like Amy's Kitchen, Ben and Jerry's and Campbell's soup.  This legislation would preempt any state policies that may lead to different requirements across the U.S.  It would require GMO labeling on the back of the package but would not require warning labels or any front-of-pack disclosure.  

"Specifically, the Biotechnology Food Labeling Uniformity Act would amend the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act to require manufacturers to disclose the presence of GM ingredients on the Nutrition Fact Panel in one of four ways: 

  1. Manufacturers may use a parenthesis following the relevant ingredient to indicate that this ingredient is “Genetically Engineered.”
  2. Manufacturers may identify GM ingredients with an asterisk and provide an explanation at the bottom of the ingredients list.
  3. Manufacturers may simply apply a catch all statement at the end of the ingredient list stating the product was “produced with genetic engineering.” 
  4. The FDA would have the authority to develop a symbol, in consultation with food manufacturers, that would clearly and conspicuously disclose the presence of GM ingredients on packaging."

Given the sea tide of pushing state-based GMO labeling requirements, this national legislation seems like a solid, workable solution.