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GMO Labeling Legislation Gets Bipartisan Push in Congress

With momentum building at the state level and in the private sector in favor of labeling genetically modified food products, a bill in Congress could create a federal mandate. And one natural-products group is endorsing it.

A  bill that would require the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has bipartisan support, and something else: a major food-industry backer.

The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, introduced in April by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) in their respective chambers, now has an official endorsement from the Natural Products Association, which announced its support this week.

The legislation also has Republican cosponsors in both houses of Congress: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK). But the bill will likely face some stiff opposition  from grocery and agriculture groups. More details:

By endorsing the bill, NPA becomes the first and largest natural products industry trade association to back the legislation, giving it crucial support as Americans continue to call for stronger GMO labeling.

The backers

The Natural Products Association, a group representing the interests of 2,000 manufacturers of healthcare, supplement, and beauty products, has come out in support of the GMO labeling measure, months after calling for an industry standard.

“By endorsing the bill,” the association said in a press release, “NPA becomes the first and largest natural products industry trade association to back the legislation, giving it crucial support as Americans continue to call for stronger GMO labeling.”

Speaking to The Hill, the group’s executive director, John Shaw, said that NPA sees the bill “as an important first step to address this issue that is very important to the everyday consumer.”

Momentum building

State legislators already seem to be moving in the direction of requiring GMO labeling. Connecticut passed a law in June allowing for such labeling—with a caveat that nearby states must pass similar legislation before Connecticut farmers would be required to comply. Since then,  Maine has followed suit—although its law contains a similar caveat.

Meanwhile, one major national grocery chain, Whole Foods, announced a labeling program of its own earlier this year.

However, the movement toward GMO labeling has not been without setbacks, most notably a ballot initiative that failed in California last year.

Opposition

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents food manufacturers, has previously come out against such labeling.

“Special mandatory labeling could mislead consumers into believing that foods produced through modern biotechnology are somehow different or present a special risk or a potential risk, even though FDA and other scientific bodies have studied foods derived from biotechnology exhaustively and determined these foods are safe,” the association says in a policy statement on its website.

The GMA is currently playing a role in a labeling fight in Washington state and spoke out against Whole Foods’ move back in March.

Other scientific and agriculture groups, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Corn Growers Association, have previously come out against legally mandated labeling, with AAAS saying in a statement that it could “mislead and falsely alarm consumers.”

(iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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