As Vermont has recently passed a bill requiring food manufacturers to state on labels whether their products contain any genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Congress is struggling to pass a law that would ban mandatory labeling of GMOs across states.
But the bill has sparked fierce debates on the safety of GMOs, and customers’ right to know what they put on their plates.
GMOs, which are crops genetically modified to resist droughts, pests, and common pesticides, have been present in America’s grocery stores for more than two decades. Both the food industry and federal agencies consider genetically altered crops perfectly safe for human consumption.
But in recent years, customers became more and more concerned about the long-term health implications of such crops, while scientists are increasingly worried about an herbicide used on these crops.
So, customers are now backing mandatory GMO labeling in their states to the industry’s ire. Oreo and Kraft Heinnz have protested against such measure arguing that the new labels would only misguide customers and needlessly increase packaging costs.
But customers who want to know what they eat want food companies to be held responsible for the issue.
GMOs are again in the limelight due to a 2015 report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) that has revealed glyphosate, a common herbicide used on genetically altered crops, may cause cancer. Furthermore, in February the FDA pledged it would test foods for glyphosate traces.
In 2015, 101 state bills eyeing GMOs were introduced, of which only 15 became laws. But of those that passed, four were about GMO labeling.
This month, a controversial bill was introduced by the Agriculture Committee in Congress. The bill, which has the industry’s support, will prevent states from requesting mandatory GMO disclosure.
The new rules are expected to reach Senate floor by Wednesday. Sen. Pat Roberts, the promoter of the bill, argued that a “voluntary national standard” is necessary due to market issues, not food safety. Roberts added that U.S. GMOs are already under the regulatory oversight of three agencies: the FDA, EPA and Department of Agriculture.
But opponents of the bill sponsored a counter bill demanding mandatory labeling, though the industry has criticized the term as being misleading because consumers may think a specific product is not safe to eat.
Mike Gruber of the Grocery Manufacturers Association believes that a voluntary standard would be better than a “patchwork of state mandates.” The group also advocates for a method to find GMO info by scanning QR codes on food packages.
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