GMO Bites – US Senate Bill 764

GMO labelling Bill 764 full of loopholes

• On July 6, the U.S. Senate voted to pass a bill mandating labelling for genetically engineered (GE) foods, but the legislation has been denounced by critics as inadequate and riddled with loopholes.

Senate Bill 764 now moves to the House of Representatives for a debate and vote. If passed in the House and signed by President Obama, the bill would have the effect of preempting the nation’s first state GE-labelling law: Vermont’s Act 120, which took effect July 1.

The legislation would mandate labelling of GE foods, requiring the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a disclosure standard within two years after passage of the bill. The bill is intended to be less burdensome than Act 120 and offer the food industry multiple options to make the required disclosures, including via “a text, symbol or electronic or digital link.”

The Senate voted to approve the measure just days after Vermont’s GE-labelling law took effect.

“The timing of this legislation is not an accident,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) said Wednesday during a press conference on Capitol Hill. “Its goal is to overturn and rescind the very significant legislation passed in the state of Vermont. I will do everything that I can to see that it’s defeated.”

Sanders was unsuccessful. The bill passed on July 6 in the Senate by a vote of 63 to 30.

Critics of the legislation said it has no teeth because it fails to carry any penalties or mandatory recall authority for foods out of compliance with the disclosure requirements. What’s more, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said the option to make disclosures through an electronic device would fall “short for consumers” who don’t have access to technology or the Internet to learn what is in their food.

Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, described the legislation as “a non-labelling bill disguised as a labelling bill, a sham and a legislative embarrassment. It is deeply disturbing that a majority in the Senate would support a bill that openly discriminates against America’s low income, rural and elderly populations,” he said in a statement prior to the Senate vote. “This denies them their right to know simply because they are not able to afford or have access to smartphones. The bill itself is poorly drafted and would exempt many and perhaps most current genetically engineered foods from labelling.”

Wenonah Hauter of the advocacy organization Food & Water Watch contended the legislation’s definition of genetic engineering could exclude from the labelling requirements “some of the most pervasive GMO crops.”

“This definition would exclude a wide variety of highly processed foods, from soybean oil to corn oil, corn syrup to sugar beets, and an array of other products that do not possess the actual genetic material after they have been processed,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, said.

A number of large food manufacturers have announced policies to label products containing GMOs, and not only in Vermont where it is required by law.

“GMO labels can already be found on packages of Snickers, M&Ms, Lay’s Potato Chips, Cheetos, Doritos, Fritos and Smartfood Popcorn, among others,” Hauter pointed out in her Food & Water Watch post. “But this bill would put an end to that.”.

Source: Excerpted from the post by Josh Long, July 8, 2016.

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