Consumers Union urges Congress to oppose bill to prevent states from labeling GMO foods

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March 25, 2015

Consumers Union Urges Congress to Oppose Bill to Prevent States from Labeling GMO Foods

Bill Will Also Allow GMO Foods to be Labeled “Natural”

Washington, D.C.—Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is urging Congress to reject the proposals contained in the misleadingly named “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015,” which was reintroduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) today. The bill would prohibit states from establishing or carrying out mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food, and would explicitly allow GE foods, known as GMOs, to be labeled “natural.”

“Consumers have a right to know if their food has been genetically engineered,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union. “States should not be prohibited from requiring GE labeling.”

The bill would direct the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to continue its current policy, in which any labeling of genetically engineered food must be the voluntary choice of the food producer. The bill was reintroduced just days after a World Health Organization research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), categorized the herbicide glyphosate (trade name Roundup), used on virtually all GE crops, as a “probable carcinogen.”

Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen, Ph.D. said, “The new status of glyphosate, so widely used on genetically engineered crops, as a probable carcinogen, heightens consumer concern and increases consumer support for mandatory labeling.”

The vast majority of Americans want labeling of genetically engineered food: Polls, including one conducted in 2014 by Consumer Reports, have consistently found that more than 90 percent of consumers support mandatory labeling.

States including Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut have begun to act on the views of their citizens and have passed legislation requiring labeling of GE food. Other states, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Illinois, as well as California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado, have considered such measures. Some 64 countries, including most of our major trading partners, require labeling of GE food.

In addition to opposing the preemption of states to label GE foods, Consumers Union also opposes allowing a “natural” label on GE food. Recent polling by Consumer Reports found that more than 60 percent of consumers believe foods labeled as natural do not contain genetically engineered ingredients. Consumer Reports testing last year identified five food products labeled “natural” that actually did contain GE ingredients.

“Allowing the natural label on genetically engineered food would legalize a deceptive practice,” Halloran stated.

Consumers Union maintains that mandatory labeling would be not be expensive. “Food companies change their product labels all the time without raising prices,” said Halloran

An analysis commissioned by Consumers Union and conducted by the independent economic research firm ECONorthwest found from a review of published research that the median cost to consumers of requiring labeling of GE food would be $2.30 per person annually, or less than a penny a day.

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