This blog also was published online in Natural Products INSIDER.
Proponents and critics of legislation in Congress that would preempt states from requiring labels on genetically engineered (GE) foods disagree on whether the measure will pass in the Senate.
Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, is said to be taking the lead on the issue in the Senate where a bill has yet to be introduced. But not a single Democrat in the Senate said they will work with Hoeven, according to Scott Faber, executive director of the pro-GMO labeling project, Just Label It.
Speaking during a recent call hosted for its members by the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), Faber said the Senate needs Democratic votes to get anything done.
Press spokespersons for Hoeven did not respond to multiple emailed requests for comment.
In July, the House passed by a vote of 275 to 150 the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, a measure that was cosponsored by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) and G.K. Butterfield (D-North Carolina).
Brian Kennedy, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), said his organization expected that a bill would be introduced in the Senate and pass this fall.
“Yes, it is our understanding that Sen. Hoeven is taking the lead on introducing a companion bill in the Senate and that he is working with a number of Republican offices to further build support for the introduction of this legislation," Kennedy said Wednesday in an emailed statement.
Heather Denker, a spokesperson for Pompeo, did not immediately respond late Wednesday to an emailed request for comment.
Opponents of mandatory GE labeling have insisted that bioengineered foods are safe and that required labels would burden the food industry. GMA and other trade groups have been fighting in Vermont federal court to overturn Act 120, the state’s GE-labeling bill that is set to take effect next summer.
“The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act protects the consumer from a costly and confusing 50-state patchwork of labeling laws by establishing national standards and guidelines governing the use and labeling of GM technology," Kennedy said.
But proponents of mandatory GE labeling have dubbed Pompeo’s bill the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act because they say it would deprive consumers of the right to know whether genetically modified organisms are contained in their food.
“We think consumers simply have the right to know what’s in their food," Faber said, “[and] the right to know how their food is grown."
Pompeo’s legislation would preempt states from requiring labels on GE foods, foiling Vermont’s Act 120, and create a program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through which foods could be certified as being produced without genetic engineering. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could require labels on GE foods, but only if specific requirements outlined in the bill were met, including a finding that the required disclosure is “necessary to protect public health and safety or to prevent the label or labeling of the food so produced from being false or misleading."