Flawed Genetic Engineering Labeling Bill Passes in the Senate

Statement by Amalie Lipstreu, OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator

For Immediate Release: July 8, 2016

Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, amalie@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, lauren@oeffa.org

The U.S. Senate passed S.764 last evening. The bill included a provision to address the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food. The statement below is from OEFFA’s Policy Program Coordinator, Amalie Lipstreu.

We are disappointed that this bill, negotiated behind closed doors with a handful of special interests, was fast tracked on the Senate agenda with not a single hearing, despite the repeated finding that 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers want clear labeling of food containing genetically engineered ingredients. What has been hailed as a great “compromise” is a gift to biotech and food manufacturing companies, who will have three options for disclosure, one of which is a digital code that will require shoppers to stand in grocery store aisles with their smartphones, scan their purchases, and visit a website, before they have the information they need to make purchases. The bill contains no enforcement provisions and many—perhaps most—GE ingredients will be exempt from any labeling requirement. Passage of this bill means that U.S. citizens will be prevented from having the same rights as those in 64 other nations: the right to know if they are consuming food containing GE ingredients.

The USDA and the FDA issued what appear to be conflicting analyses of the bill. Questions remain as to what GE products will be labeled and how the labeling requirements will co-exist with other federally mandated labeling requirements. Despite these outstanding issues, the Senate passed the measure by a 63:30 margin.

Now is the time for President Obama to act on his campaign statements that the public has a right to know if their food is genetically engineered and veto the bill if it comes to his desk.  We have time to develop a national standard in the light of day and with the input of concerned citizens, scientists, and sustainable agriculture and food interests that relies on a clear label that simply states that the food includes GE ingredients.