GMO labeling bill gets backing from natural-food, supplement group

The nation’s largest trade group for natural products is getting behind a legislative effort to require that consumers know when their food has been genetically modified.

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The Natural Products Association, which represents more than 2,000 supplement, health food and beauty companies, is supporting a bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) to mandate labeling on foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“The Natural Products Association and its diverse members of suppliers and retailers support a consumer’s right to know what’s in their food and in the products that they put in their body,” Executive Director John Shaw told The Hill in an interview.

He added, “It is a simple premise: Every American wants to be able to make a choice regarding the products based on what is contained in those products, and no one should try to hide anything that is contained in their products.”

The group is the first of its kind to get behind the legislation.

Shaw said the group sees the bill as “as an important first step to address this issue that is very important to the everyday consumer.”

The legislative effort to label foods containing GMOs has grown in recent months as stories have spread about genetically engineered and altered crops and food. Grocery stores like Whole Foods and restaurants like Chipotle have pledged to begin making sure all the products they carry come with labels indicating whether they contain GMOs.

Agricultural organizations maintain that GMOs are perfectly safe for humans to eat and a necessity to feed the nearly 7 billion people on the planet.

Health and safety groups have questioned those safety claims, though, and argue that the public has a right to know what’s in their food.

A 2012 ABC News poll found that 93 percent of Americans want the government to require labels on genetically modified food.

“I think that what we have seen in the last few years is that the country has become more health conscious,” Shaw said, explaining the growing support.

State legislatures have also begun taking on the issue.

Last month, Connecticut became the first state to pass a law requiring labeling of foods containing GMOs, though the state bill came with notable caveats. 

In order for the law to take effect, four other states have to pass similar legislation, one of which must be a neighbor. Additionally, Northeastern states with a total population of 20 million must adopt GMO labeling laws.

Nine days after Connecticut, Maine also passed legislation, though it too contains key caveats that maintain the status quo until laws pass in other nearby states.

Still, lawmakers have said Congress should follow the states’ lead.

After the Connecticut bill passed, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who is also supporting the bill in Congress, said that it should “serve as a model” for federal action.