By: Lydia Wheeler and Tim Devany
Consumer advocates are urging lawmakers in the Senate to reject legislation that would preempt states from issuing their own mandatory labeling laws for foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) unveiled a draft bill late last week that requires the Agriculture secretary to establish a national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered, or GMO, foods.
Ahead of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee markup on Thursday, groups like Food & Water Watch are pushing lawmakers to oppose legislation they say lets big food profit by misleading consumers.
"The vast majority of the public wants to know if the food they buy contains GMO ingredients," Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement. "It's time for Congress to create a mandatory on-package labeling requirement so people can decide for themselves whether they want to eat a food that has been produced using genetic engineering."
Proponents of the bill, however, say a national food labeling solution is needed to keep mandatory labeling laws in states like Vermont, which takes effect July 1, from driving up food prices.
A study released Monday by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) found that Vermont's law could increase the price of groceries by nearly $1,050 annually.
Consumer groups quickly slammed the industry-funded study.
"The food industry is once again attempting to scare consumers and legislators in order to get their way," Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. "Campbell's Soup has announced it will label all of its GE products at no added cost to the consumer. If a company like Campbell's can take this step to label their food accurately, then there is no reason the rest of the industry can't follow suit."
The legislation in the Senate is similar to the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 that passed the House in June.