Congress has passed a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) bill. According to MeatingPlace.com, on July 14, 2016 the U.S. House of Representatives voted 306-117 to pass a bill establishing a national mandatory system of disclosure for foods containing genetically modified or engineered ingredients.
The bill says, “To amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national disclosure standard for bioengineered foods, and for other purposes.”
Since the Senate also approved the bill on July 7, in a 63-30 vote, the bill will now be sent to President Obama who has agreed to sign it. The proposed bill was a compromise between Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, and Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), ranking member, that will give food manufacturers three options for affixing a GMO label to their goods:
- Text, a symbol, or a written statement on the package,
- A link to a website or a phone number to call to ask about the food product,
- A QR (Quick Response) code that shoppers would scan with their smartphones to look up information about the food product.
Reportedly, there will be no penalties of fines imposed for noncompliance. Additionally, the bill’s requirements for labeling will be phased in over the coming years, allowing food companies time to adapt.
In reading through the bill, it outlines when a food would/would not meet the criterion expressed about as containing genetically engineered foods. It also states, “SAFETY.—For the purpose of regulations promulgated and food disclosures made pursuant to paragraph (2), a bioengineered food that has successfully completed the pre-market Federal regulatory review process shall not be treated as safer than, or not as safe as, a non-bioengineered counterpart of the food solely because the food is bioengineered or produced or developed with the use of bioengineering.”
The bill exempts foods in which meat and poultry are the main ingredients. GMOAnswers.com addresses the question of If livestock eat genetically modified grain, will there be GMOs in my meat? The short answer is no, however to fully understand why, be sure to check out the article. Another interesting read is No sign of health or nutrition problems from GMO livestock feed (peer-reviewed journal article linked in article). The bill also exempts gene-edited food items, or items where genes have been removed. To learn more about gene editing, this article on Questions and answers about CRISPR does a good job explaining. Ultimately determining what exactly a GMO product is will be determined by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) reports Food Safety Magazine.
This agreement was reached just days before the nation’s first biotechnology food labeling law was set to go into effect in Vermont on July 1. This bill prohibits individual states from mandating labels of food or seed that is genetically engineered, creating a patchwork of varying state standards which would needlessly add cost for food companies that package foods and create unnecessary alarm among consumers, reports Mankato Free Press. Additionally, individual state requirements would make it extremely difficult for food manufacturers to distribute food products in multiple states without running into legislative inconsistencies, not to mentioning costs that would be passed to the consumer.
If you keep up on the labeling of genetically modified foods, then you know there has also strong opposition to it. GMO Answers addresses some of those concerns in Why do GMO companies seem like they are so against labeling GMO foods?
Want more information about GMOs? Some great resources I recommend include:
- GMO Answers
- Genetic Literacy Project
- Also, if interested there is a spreadsheet with over 1700 research studies on GMOs, which can be found by scrolling tot he bottom of the 2000+ global studies affirm safety article.
- Best Food Facts
What do you think about this new bill? Will it be something you look for when you shop for food?
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