Consumers Union opposes House bill designed to thwart state GMO labeling efforts as House subcommittee holds Thursday hearing

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Director, Food Policy Initiatives​

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – As a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee prepares to hold a Thursday hearing on the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in foods, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, sent a letter to Committee members strongly opposing legislation that would prohibit GMO labeling requirements at any level – federal, state, or local.

A new draft of the misleadingly named Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, proposed by Representative Pompeo and being considered at the hearing, would not only preempt state GMO labeling laws in development or already enacted, such as in Vermont, but would also bar states and local communities from regulating genetically modified crops in other ways. Several counties in California and Oregon, as well as the states of Washington and Hawaii, currently have measures in place that restrict where GMO crops can be grown.

The new draft would also further prevent businesses from creating voluntary labels for non-engineered products that are more stringent than a yet-to-be-determined U.S. Department of Agriculture standard.

“Rather than give consumers the information they’re asking for, as poll after poll has shown they want, this new version of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act would do quite the opposite. It not only prevents future federal or state requirements for GMO labeling, it also interferes with independent business efforts to give consumers the information they want,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union. “For example, the Non-GMO Project Verified label, which now appears on thousands of products, is highly meaningful because it establishes a threshold of GMO contamination (0.9%) that cannot be exceeded. This legislation, however, does not require a threshold, potentially forcing stringent non-GMO labeling programs to weaken their standards.”

The anti-consumer legislation would make current federal voluntary labeling policy permanent, even though current guidelines have not produced a GMO-labeled product in 15 years.

In the letter, Consumers Union voiced support for other legislative efforts, like the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act introduced by Representative DeFazio, that would require genetically engineered foods to be labeled. Many polls, including one by Consumer Reports have found that some 90 percent of consumers want labels on GMOs. Some 64 foreign countries already require labels.

“We strongly urge Committee members to oppose this legislation and work to pass legislation that recognizes the consumer’s right to know what they’re buying,” said Halloran.

Consumers Union is encouraging consumers to make their voice heard and share their support for GMO labeling with their representatives. Consumers can visitNotInMyFood.org to take action and send Congress the message that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food.

Please click here for a full copy of the letter.

The House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing, “A National Framework for the Review and Labeling of Biotechnology in Food,” is scheduled to begin on Thursday, July 18 at 10 AM Eastern.

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Contact:  David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org or Kara Kelber, kkelber@consumer.org202-462-6262