WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is cosponsoring S.2621, the Biotechnology Food Labeling Uniformity Act, a bill introduced by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to ensure that consumers can find genetically modified organism (GMO) ingredient labeling on food packaging, while ensuring that food producers are not subject to confusing or conflicting labeling requirements in different locations. The legislation presents an alternative to a Senate Agriculture Committee bill being debated on the floor this week that would preempt state GMO labeling laws.
“A commitment to strengthen our agriculture industry also requires a commitment to our consumers. Americans deserve to know more about the food they purchase at the grocery store. As a parent, this is important to me and families across our state, and it is why I support this pragmatic legislation to require clear labels for genetically modified foods. Providing transparency to consumers will ensure they are able to make informed decisions about the products they buy and feed their families," said Senator Heinrich.
The Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act would allow American consumers to see whether a food has been prepared with GM ingredients, while offering food manufacturers several options for including this information on or near the ingredients list. This framework meets the needs of consumers, the vast majority of whom support labeling according to polls, and producers, who worry that a patchwork of state labeling laws would be costly and difficult to comply with and confusing for consumers.
Specifically, the Biotechnology Food Labeling Uniformity Act would amend the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act to require manufacturers to disclose the presence of GM ingredients on the Nutrition Fact Panel in one of four ways:
- Manufacturers may use a parenthesis following the relevant ingredient to indicate that this ingredient is "Genetically Engineered."
- Manufacturers may identify GM ingredients with an asterisk and provide an explanation at the bottom of the ingredients list.
- Manufacturers may simply apply a catch all statement at the end of the ingredient list stating the product was "produced with genetic engineering."
- The FDA would have the authority to develop a symbol, in consultation with food manufacturers, that would clearly and conspicuously disclose the presence of GM ingredients on packaging.
None of these options would require front panel disclosures or "warning" statements intending to disparage GM ingredients.
In addition to providing concrete disclosure options, today's GMO labeling bill would also provide regulatory certainty to national food manufacturers. This legislative proposal represents a uniform Federal GM labeling standard with sufficient flexibility to suit manufacturing operations of various sizes and markets, while also giving national manufacturers in compliance with the federal standard safe harbor from the potential patchwork of state laws.
Through this proposal, interested consumers have the ability to find clear information about GM ingredients written directly on the product label when making food-purchasing decisions, and food producers have regulatory certainty in complying with a single GMO labeling standard.