Sen. Merkley’s mandatory GMO labeling bill backed by Campbell Soup unlikely to pass

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The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis.

. . .Senator Jeff Merkley* (D-OR) has introduced a ‘common-sense’ alternative he claims will please supporters of mandatory GMO labeling, but offer the food industry a more palatable means of presenting this information.

The Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act, which has the backing of selected food companies including Amy’s Kitchen, Ben and Jerry’s, Campbell Soup and Nature’s Path – would trump all state- led GMO labeling laws, including the one about to come into effect in Vermont on July 1.

And while it would require mandatory GMO labeling on the back of pack, it would not require front of pack disclosures or ‘warning’ statements intending to disparage GM ingredients, stressed Merkley.

. . .

The four labeling options suggested in Sen Merkley’s bill are:

1. Manufacturers can insert the phrase ‘genetically engineered’ in parenthesis after any GE ingredients on the ingredients list.

2. Manufacturers can identify GM ingredients with an asterisk and provide an explanation at the bottom of the ingredients list.

3. Manufacturers may apply a catch-all statement at the end of the ingredient list stating the product was “produced with genetic engineering.”

4. The FDA could develop a symbol, in consultation with food manufacturers, that would show presence of GM ingredients on packaging.

However, the food industry-backed Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF), which is supporting Senator Roberts’ voluntary GMO labeling bill, dismissed Sen Merkley’s bill as unworkable.

A spokeswoman told FoodNavigator-USA: “. . .Mandatory on package labeling is reserved for important health and safety information. . . this doesn’t apply to biotech labeling because the overwhelming scientific consensus shows that GMOs are completely safe.”

  • agscienceliterate

    And it should not pass. Requiring the words “contains genetically modified ingredients” does not provide any utilitarian information to the consumer regarding ingredients, nutrition, or health / allergy concerns. Genes are modified all the time, including through mutagenesis of organic foods, but activists are not clamoring for mutagenic foods that have been irradiated or chemically altered, with thousands of genes manipulated randomly, with no oversight or testing, to be labeled. GE labeling is solely an anti-GE activist ploy. Why Campbell’s Soup has catered to these activists is beyond my comprehension. The activist’s claims of “right to know” violate my right to have accurate information on food labels, and my right to not have meaningless and erroneous labels placed on my food at my expense.

    • WeGotta

      A cartoon ghost on boxes of sugar passed off as food does not provide any “utilitarian information to the consumer regarding ingredients, nutrition, or health / allergy concerns” either.

      So that doesn’t violate your right to not have meaningless and erroneous labels on your food at your expense?

      If you want to take off ALL information on the packaging that is not related to “utilitarian information to the consumer regarding ingredients, nutrition, or health / allergy concerns” then I’ll support you.

      In the meantime, if it’s the consumers’ goal to avoid modified ingredients then the label would provide the exact information required to make an informed choice.

      • JP

        That cartoon ghost isn’t a mandatory label.

        • WeGotta

          What’s mandatory or not is what we are debating.

          If people argue that only information that is “scientifically relevant” should be mandatory and only mandatory things should provided then say goodbye to all the advertisements on food packages. I’d say hooray and good riddance.

          • JP

            The article is about mandatory labeling so, yes, that is exactly what is being discussed.

            No one is arguing against voluntary labeling.

          • WeGotta

            Okay.
            Let’s only allow facts on food labels.

          • Good4U

            Agreed. Label organic food as full of fecal matter, rotten to begin with, bad for your health, bad for the environment. Facts enough for ya?

          • agscienceliterate

            Workers paid min. Wage or less, no toilets, no place to wash hands, shown to use more water per acre and more tillage, with more diesel use, and a fun-filled e.coli factory. Yum.

      • jmk

        If the consumer’s goal is to avoid foods produced from organisms improved by modern, precise, safe biotech methods, they can buy products with a “non-GMO verified” label. That’s the exact information this tiny fraction of consumers needs to make their informed choice.

        • WeGotta

          A group of consumers would not elicit such a response if they were “tiny”.

          It’s definitely easy to avoid GMO if that’s your goal. Just stop eating junk food.

          But if your goal is to know whether or not the food you wish to buy is GMO or not, then it’s not easy.

          • jmk

            If it says non-GMO verified it couldn’t be easier. Just like Kosher or halal. Or gluten-free.

          • WeGotta

            “If”

            It’s not like Kosher or Halal. Those things are labeled in the affirmative.

            Gluten free is similar to non-GMO.
            You will find those labels on things that never would be or could be.
            But you still won’t be able to pick up an item you wish to buy and know one way or another unless that particular product was labeled.

          • jmk

            If it says no GMO then it’s no GMO.

          • WeGotta

            Yes.

        • agscienceliterate

          That would be waaaaaay too easy … Why not force a useless label on the rest of us?

          • jmk

            Oh the label isn’t useless. The business interests behind the Just Label It push have stated that they want to demonize biotech and eventually to have its use banned. I’m philosophically opposed to that happening.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Yep, and here ‘s the proof. https://storify.com/mem_somerville/gmo-labels-the-purpose-is?utm_source=embed_header all the other comments are just a smoke screen.

          • agscienceliterate

            So am I.

      • Dominick Dickerson

        Advertisement and logos are a different entity entirely than what’s being discussed when the topic of food labeling is being discussed.

        Claiming an image of boo berry justifies an anything goes approach to labeling is probably one to the stupidest things I’ve seen you post, in a very long line of stupid things you’ve posted.

        Namaste

        • WeGotta

          Why should that be considered different? There’s no scientific justification for this.

          Boo berry is placed on the package specifically to change a consumer’s perception about the product despite any scientific justification.
          Exactly what you say is “wrong” with a GMO label.
          On second thought: No, not exactly. It’s nonfactual and specifically intended to mislead as opposed to factual and only misleading depending on preconceived misconceptions.

          In fact, science concludes such sugary junk is harmful if eaten in excess so it shouldn’t be given such an advantage then, should it?

          • Jackson

            This is such a strange argument. I actually do think an image of Boo Berry and a GMO label should be treated the same. Both should be voluntary. You should prevent untruthful advertising, and mandate labeling for health and safety reasons. All advertising, like images of cartoons and GMO labeling, should be voluntary.

          • WeGotta

            Either food packaging should have only factual information or not.
            If you say there’s room for both you’re introducing a value system.
            Why would the producer get more consideration than the consumer?

            Either the food packaging should be voluntary or it should be mandatory.
            If you say both then you are introducing a value system.
            Why should the producer be held to a different standard than the consumer?

            If one is “more important” than the other than I choose the consumer every time.

          • Jackson

            Either food packaging should have only factual information or not.

            Doesn’t the disallowance of untrue or misleading statements take care of your concern for only allowing factual information?

            If you say there’s room for both you’re introducing a value system.

            Why would the producer get more consideration than the consumer?

            I don’t know what you are saying here. If a peanut producer wants to put their product in a polka-dot bag while still labeling it as peanuts, that is OK with me. I don’t think the government should step in and call polka-dots “non-factual” and outlaw them. I think that is crazy.

            I don’t know what you mean by the producer getting more consideration than the consumer.

          • WeGotta

            But much of the food packaging is advertising. Purposefully misleading.

            Why not just white packages with black lettering stating factual information about the contents?
            If it’s made from crops grown at a picturesque farm, then a picture of the farm would be factual.

            An argument against mandatory labeling is that such information will be seen as “negative” in the eyes of the consumer. But it’s just factual information.
            But, the producer gets to use the largest portion of the package for nonfactual information specifically intended to mislead us and that’s not considered a problem for some reason.

          • Jackson

            It sounds like you view all advertising as misleading and untrue, and would like a government ban on all advertising. But then in the same argument, you want the government to mandate a GMO advertisement right on the packaging.

            What is wrong with mandating labels concerning health and safety, while letting things that concern people’s personal preferences to be left to voluntary labeling?

            There are millions of bits of factual information about any one product, why are you picking this particular personal preference to mandate, and not any of the millions of other true factual statements that could be made?

          • WeGotta

            I don’t want anything really. People can do what they want.
            I just like to think about stuff.

            But I don’t see why things shouldn’t apply equally for both producers and consumers. Factual information only.
            If for nothing else, because Americans are dying most often due to poor dietary choices. Let’s stop actively trying to convince people to buy junk food.

            This particular piece of information because it’s the one many people want and the one that is being denied.
            It’s just like with children. You have to draw the line somewhere.
            This is the line. If not here, the industry will keep pushing until, next thing we know, we have lost all power.

          • agscienceliterate

            GE conspiracy theorists only are capable of focusing on that one thing. (Kinda odd from one who doesn’t trust the government, corporations, farmers, or food manufacturers, right?). But then again, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.
            This labeling bill is just a political bone thrown to the conspiracy theorist activists who don’t care about labeling for valuable information to the consumer, and just focus on agenda-driven garbage.

          • WeGotta

            Silly sally sideswipe strikes again!

            You are a lying coward with proof to back up the claim.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Advertising isn’t the same as mandatory labeling.

          • WeGotta

            True. One is meant to deceive with nonfactual information and unsupported claims, the other is factual and meant to inform.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            You certainly have an excess of negative feelings towards a cartoon ghost.

            Mandatory labeling is meant to inform and be factual. It’s also limited to composition, health and safety in this country.

            So do you have evidence to suggest which methods were used to create a plant variety have a material effect on composition, health and safety? Because that’s the standard that determines what is mandatorily labeled in this country.

          • WeGotta

            Depends.
            Let’s be more comprehensive in our analysis.
            Let’s evaluate the method from beginning to end and compare to other available methods.
            Let’s evaluate the whole system and then decide which tools are best.

            I don’t care what it’s meant to do or what people think it’s limited to.
            Things change and the law is one of them.

            I have mixed feelings about cartoon ghosts depending on how they are used.
            If they are used to deliberately trick children into eating food that is know to cause disease then I would have negative feelings about them.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            So You don’t have credible evidence that which breeding methods was used has an impact on health, safety, or nutritional composition and therefor would be covered under mandatory labeling?

            I thought as much.

          • WeGotta

            Whether I do or not. I can still choose one method over another and support one over another no matter what scientists think.

            Same as if I choose to support Michael Jordan’s shoes over Kobe Bryant’s. Tough shit for Kobe.

            But there’s lots of evidence to support the belief that our food system could be better. So I’ll support better methods as I see fit.

          • Dominick Dickerson

            Cool, do it through the existing system of voluntary labels that already allow for that.

            it is not the role of mandatory labeling to acquiesce to mere consumer curiosity, and since you nor anyone else for that matter can provide evidence that something being GE or not has any bearing on the composition or safety of the good, it doesn’t fall within the scope of a mandatory label.

            You can support whatever you like through the voluntary labeling system that already exists.

  • terryhallinan

    Very, very sad.

    Sen, Merkely is far from one of the bought politicians who denies science, except for the specious “organic food” vampire hunting.

    In denying biological science, Sen. Markeley would do more damage to the planet than the good he can do in opposing harm from fossil fuels and other atmosphere heating measures.

    Best, Terry

  • My Idea of Freedom

    I’ve read quite a few of the posts in this discussion. I’m struck with how it narrowed down to the question of whose “rights” deserve paramount status–the producer or the consumer’s. Personally, I will side with the consumer every time, too. The people have been able to depend on non-partisan governmental agencies to rein in what can, in the worst cases. become predatory behavior by companies whose bottom line improves by “encouraging” consumers to buy at all costs to them. We cannot ever allow health-related decisions to have voluntary status. Corporate self-interest and greed, those evil twins, too often conspire against the consumer. The person calling consumer activists “conspiracy theorists” is both misleading and incorrect.