New mandatory GM labeling bill introduced in Senate.

  • We have seen significant activity on the Hill this week related to the labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods.  On March 1, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved a bill that would establish a voluntary, USDA-administered GM labeling regime and preempt state requirements in this area (including those slated to take effect in Vermont later this year).
  • On March 2, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Jon Tester (D-Montana), and Dianne Feinstein (D-California) introduced a new bill, S.2621 — the Biotechnology Food Labeling Uniformity Act — to establish a mandatory federal labeling regime for GM foods.  The bill would preempt state GM labeling requirements (including Vermont’s), and would require manufacturers to disclose the presence of GM ingredients in food on the information panel of the label in one of four ways:
    • Stating “(Genetically Engineered)” after each relevant ingredient in the ingredient list;
    • Identifying GM ingredients with an asterisk linked to an explanation after the ingredient list;
    • Indicating generally at the end of the ingredient list that the product was produced or partially produced with genetic engineering (with the exact wording of the statement to be established by FDA); or
    • Use of a symbol on pack (to be developed by FDA in consultation with food manufacturers) that would clearly and conspicuously indicate the presence of GM ingredients.
  • The framework, which would be administered by FDA, provides some exemptions from labeling, e.g., where processed food contains <0.9% GM ingredients by weight; and where GM processing aids were used in food production.
  • Congress, the food industry, and consumer advocates remain divided over the right approach to GM labeling.  Although many food industry stakeholders support voluntary GM labeling at the federal level, the latest mandatory labeling initiative has been endorsed by Campbell Soup Company, Amy’s Kitchen, Ben and Jerry’s, and Nature’s Path.