Ok my vegan friends, the US congress has sent a GMO labeling bill to President Obama’s desk. When we first heard of this someone passing by the house may have heard a little “squee” coming from the general direction of our work room. And who can blame us when we vegans have hollered so loud and so long trying to get our elected officials to take our desire to KNOW WHAT IS IN OUR FOOD seriously?
Honestly, at first blush vegans across the country may be tempted to shout VICTORY when they hear about this bill. And it is a victory of sorts because…
The bill would require all food companies to label products with GMO ingredients but allow them to slap a barcode or a scannable QR code if they prefer that to simple words or a symbol. It now heads to President Obama who will almost certainly sign it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will have to figure out what needs to be labeled as a GMO under the bill, a tricky job, to say the least.
The bill would make labeling mandatory nationwide.
I mean, you’d think that a nationwide GMO labeling bill would be a good thing. Wouldn’t you? Isn’t this something we vegans have been fighting for for a very long time now? Isn’t it a good thing that we’ll know what is frankenfood and what isn’t? With this bill all companies in all states will have to comply and we finally will be able to KNOW WHAT IS IN OUR FOOD. Right?
The agreement, reached between Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-KS, and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, also would use a narrow definition of genetic engineering that would exempt the newest biotech methods such as gene editing from the national disclosure standards.
Both the definition and the option for digital codes rather than on-package labeling represent major victories for farm interests, biotech developers, and food companies that have long resisted mandatory GMO labeling out of fear that it would stigmatize the technology.
Wait what? New boitech stuff like “gene editing” of our food isn’t considered a GMO? Shocking, right? Turns out the “experts” can’t seem to agree what a GMO is or is not. They claim it is a messy term that is “virtually useless” and depends on context to understand. We even heard one fellow in some documentary or other (if I can dredge which one up from the junk yard that is my memory I’ll add a link) equate the term GMO to the term NERD. This fellow says that everyone just “KNOWS” what one is but no one can really define it when asked for specifics.
Really? In our opinion any scientist who can’t define a GMO is being paid by the biotech developers, food companies or the agriculture industry!
The Stabenow-Roberts GMO bill is confusing, misleading and unenforceable. It does nothing to make sure consumers know what they’re eating.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 6, 2016
If you’re on Senator Sanders mailing list you know that he opposes this GMO labeling bill because it will replace or preempts a GMO labeling bill in his home state of Vermont which is much more precise. The Vermont GMO labeling bill actually requires companies to put it IN WRITING ON THE FOOD LABEL when there are GMO’s in the product.
Honestly, isn’t that what a GMO labeling bill should do? Actually print on the label “this product contains GMO’s” so that you can put on your glasses and read it? Instead they are going to be able to hide the information in a digital code of some sort. How many of you carry a bar code scanner to the store with you?
But Wait There’s More according to Agriculture.com the following are some of the other “Key aspects of the legislation”…
The standards would become mandatory after USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service finalizes a rule laying out the disclosure requirements, including the optional on-package text and symbol. AMS would have two years to write the rule.
USDA would be required to survey the availability of scanning devices and the internet and provide additional disclosure options if officials determine that shoppers “would not have sufficient access to the bioengineering disclosure through electronic or digital” methods.
Food manufacturers defined as “very small” would be exempt from the disclosure requirement entirely. AMS would define the thresholds for small and very small businesses. The Food and Drug Administration sets those thresholds at $10 million and $1 million for nutrition labeling. Restaurants also would be exempt.
Meat and dairy products wouldn’t be considered GMOs just because the animals were fed GMO feed, and products such as soup where meat is the lead ingredient also would be exempt even if there is a minor biotech ingredient such as high-fructose corn syrup. Animals such as salmon that are genetically engineered would fall under the disclosure requirements.
USDA would have no authority to require recalls of products that don’t comply with the labeling requirements, and there would be no federal penalties for violations. States, however, could impose fines for violations of the standards under state consumer protection rules.
Products that are certified organic by USDA could be labeled as non-GMO.
So, we’ll ask you again… VEGANS! Do You Want President Obama To Sign This GMO Labeling Bill?
For us the jury is still out. We would have much preferred to see a bill like the one Vermont passed take effect nation wide. On the other hand we absolutely understand the need for compromise to get things done. We have to start somewhere and well… this is somewhere and at least it is a NATIONAL law. States can’t weasel out of it. However since there are no penalties for violating the law… You do the math on how swiftly companies will comply!
Now for the fun part. Whether you agree or disagree with us on this subject we’d absolutely love to chat with you about it. Please feel free to vent your spleen in the comments down yander. We’ll be happy to listen and most likely join in. ‘Cause as we read more about this we’re more than likely to have more to say on the topic. 🙂
NOTE: For those of you who’d like to check on how your member of congress voted on this GMO labeling bill just click here for a complete list including those who did not bother to vote at all. And if you’d like to contact your elected officials on this or any other matter you can find a great many ways to do so from this link here.
Sources in order of appearance: