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Policy Update: GMO Labeling

You may have heard that on July 14th, after years of debate on the issue, the House passed S.Amdt. 4937 to S. 764, a bill regulating Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) labeling. The compromise, which was considered must-pass legislation by food manufacturers and farmers alike, sets guidelines for just how far a state can go in requiring certain labeling in grocery stores in that state. The urgency in passing a bill of this nature was created by Vermont passing its own state law on mandatory food labeling, which went into effect this month and would have required food manufacturers across the nation to create an entirely different package for food to be sold in Vermont grocery stores.  

While genetically engineered foods are already monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for adverse effects on health, states like Vermont wanted to place noticeable warning labels on foods containing GMOs – and, absent federal regulation, they could require such labels. And, while many manufacturers agreed that consumers had a right to know which foods contain GMOs – and were willing to create new labels for such products – there were significant concerns regarding just how expensive and restrictive a different label for each state could be. Federal guidelines were necessary to ensure that states would not each require slightly different packaging requirements that would lead to skyrocketing compliance costs for food manufacturers, resulting in higher costs at the grocery store for Americans across the nation.

The GMO labeling bill, which was a compromise between H.R. 1599 in the House and S. 764 in the Senate, would require mandatory labeling for food that the USDA deems as genetically engineered, but would allow food manufacturers to use either text, a symbol, or an electronic link to meet the national labeling requirement instead of being required to follow a patchwork of different state labeling laws. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 63-30 on July 7th, and was approved by the House by a vote of 306-117. I was proud to vote in favor of this bill, as manufacturers and farmers in the Third District and across the state have asked for relief from state-by-state could significantly impact their businesses and the jobs they are able to create and keep in our communities.

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