Dems push for tough GMO labeling rule
Democrats are pressing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to put in place tough standards on labeling foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
In a recent letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, twenty-two House Democrats urged the department to finalize a federal rule and replace current state regulations they say are too weak to protect consumers.
“As your department moves forward with implementation, we believe it is critical that USDA create guidelines that include all GMO foods and ensure GMO information is available to all Americans,” the letter said.
Under a GMO labeling law signed by then-President Barack Obama last year, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has two years to establish standards for how companies disclose food products that have genetically engineered ingredients.
Consumer advocates hailed the 2016 law establishing nationwide GMO labeling standards. But now those advocates and many lawmakers are worried the Trump administration will approve weak standards. Regulators are slated to release the rule in February 2017.
“What we are talking about is simple– Everyone has a fundamental right to know what’s in their food,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) told The Hill. “USDA must step up and issue a final rule that will ensure all consumers can easily find information about what they are buying and eating.”
“Consumers have the right to know whether their food has been genetically modified,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who signed the letter, told The Hill.
One concern for many lawmakers is an option for manufacturers to disclose GMO foods digitally or online as an alternative to on-package labels. But critics say some consumers don’t have smartphones or easy access to the internet.
Without mandatory on-package labels, lawmakers said companies should be required to use bar codes that can be easily scanned in stores.
Lawmakers also urged the USDA to finalize the mandatory standards by the July 28, 2018 deadline.
The USDA has already pushed back its timeline, seeking additional comments from the public.
An agency spokesperson told The Hill that it plans to publish a proposed rule on the standards this fall for public comment, with the goal to have a final National Bioengineered Food Disclosure rule ready for publication by the July 2018 deadline.
The lawmakers said the public also wants tough rules, citing a poll that found nine out of ten Americans say they want to know if their foods have been genetically engineered.
“That is why I supported the legislation last Congress requiring USDA to set up a national building standard,” Speier told The Hill. “And recently signed this letter urging the USDA to create a standard that is strong, inclusive, and meets the needs of consumers.”