Effort In Congress Would Preempt Vermont Law
The food industry is seeking congressional action to preempt a Vermont law that takes effect in July and requires producers to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients. While scientists have few concerns about whether the GMOs on the market are safe, labeling advocates say their risks are unknown and labeling would give consumers the option of avoiding products containing GMOs. The food industry is grappling with a response for the Vermont law, which would require producers to create labels specifically for products sold in the state, label all products, or exit the Vermont market. The AP reports Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “brought the parties together twice this month to see if they could work out a compromise,” but that “won’t be easy, as the industry staunchly opposes mandatory labels.” The Food and Drug Administration has “said GMOs on the market now are safe, and the federal government does not support mandatory labels.” However, supporters of labeling “counter that consumers have a right to know what’s in their foods, and say Congress shouldn’t be trying to pre-empt states.”
What Comes Next
While Secretary Vilsack has proposed digital labeling, an industry-supported concept, labeling advocates worry the technologically challenged or those who lack smart phones would be unable to use them. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has said he wants to take up a preemption bill prior to the effective date of Vermont’s law, while ranking Democrat, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) and North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven (R) are working on reaching a compromise measure.
What This Means For Small Businesses
Small business owners understand the food industry’s wariness of mandatory GMO labeling, which would be another burdensome government regulation that disproportionately affects them. The government should allow food producers to arrive at their own solution to the issue, such as voluntary labeling. Indeed, Campbell Soup, for instance, has begun its own labeling policy for products containing genetically modified ingredients.
The Hill previously ran an op-ed by Julie Kelly of the Genetic Literacy Project, which critically assesses the pro-GMO labeling movement.
Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.