Congress could face pressure to establish a uniform, nationwide law on the labeling of foods made with genetically modified ingredients as early as next year, as more states regulate the controversial technology found in much of the U.S. food supply.
The debate over whether to label salad dressings, soups, cereals and other grocery store staples made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, gained momentum in May after Vermont became the first state to require labeling of foods made from those ingredients. The measure, which is being challenged in court by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other groups, is set to take effect July 1, 2016.
Congress has taken a largely hands-off approach about whether large food companies should be required to notify consumers about these ingredients.
Unless further pressure builds on the state level through the passage of new labeling laws, federal lawmakers will likely seek to distance themselves from the labeling debate. The earliest Congress could act is 2015, food groups and labeling proponents say.
“As states come out with their own different regulations, it makes (the marketplace) more and more complicated, and we may see more people from across the country asking for us to take some action. Maybe that’s what the standstill is right now,” said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., a member of the House Agriculture Committee. “There’s not a real desire for Congress to step in and deal with this issue until the people across the states tell us it’s necessary.”
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