GMO Labeling Bill Introduced by Boxer, DeFazio – Right to Know Act

Heather Callaghan
Activist Post

Last week, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, a bipartisan legislation that would require the FDA to clearly label all genetically engineered foods to better help consumers make informed decisions.

This bill or act has around 30 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. An affairs manager from Center for Food Safety said:

This is big because for the first time in 13 years the U.S. Senate has recognized consumers’ right to know – Labeling has become a nonpartisan issue. It’s no longer an issue of if, but when.

The FDA requires labeling of over 3,000 ingredients, but not genetic modification even though many consumer surveys show that more than 90% of Americans desire it. Since 1992, labeling hasn’t been required because the FDA finds no 5-sense material difference between GMOs and conventional products. BUT – as the announcement states – Common sense would indicate that GE corn that produces its own insecticide – or is engineered to survive being doused by herbicides – is materially different from traditional corn that does not. Even the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recognized that these foods are materially different and novel for patent purposes. 

Tester, the lone Senator who warned Congress about the Monsanto Protection Act rider said:

American families shouldn’t have to play a guessing game when it comes to the food they put on their kitchen tables — Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, and this bill gives them the tools they need to make informed decisions about the foods they choose.

Boxer said:

Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families. This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers, fishermen and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more – not less – information about the food they buy.

And DeFazio said:

When American families purchase food, they deserve to know if that food was genetically engineered in a laboratory. This legislation is supported by consumer’s rights advocates, family farms, environmental organizations, and businesses, and it allows consumers to make an informed choice.

Researching this, I found out that most of these House bills don’t make it past committees. Part of the ‘circle of life’ of a bill – remember that forlorn Bill from the School House Rock video? That’s why he was sad… is giving it a 3% prognosis for passing based on previous similar bills. A couple years ago, Dennis Kucinich introduced two bills surrounding GMO labeling. They were great – people were excited. On the same day of their debut, they went to committee and just sat there. It’s not so much that they died, they just got stuck and then we didn’t hear anymore about it.

Boxer has introduced more than a couple of similar bills; she doesn’t seem deterred as the public and Congress conception on labeling reaches critical mass. Last year, her and 54 other house lawmakers called on the FDA to ensure consumers can make informed choices about what they eat. Apparently, the FDA and AMA support voluntary labels – hmmm.

The House bill co-sponsors are:

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are cosponsors of the Senate bill. Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Peter Welch (D-VT), James Moran (D-VA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Don Young (R-AK), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), George Miller (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Ann Kuster (D-NH).

No summary is available yet. After the dreaded Monsanto Protection Act, it is nice to many members of Congress proactively asking for labeling and listening to their constituents. Some have called the GMO labeling intensity “controlled opposition” – but whatever it is, even if the big biotech companies and Big Food block labeling initiatives, it still brings the issue to light. Last year, many people were still asking – “What’s a GMO?”

Do you think state bills have a better chance than national labeling initiatives?


Read other articles by Heather Callaghan

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