The agricultural committee for the US Senate voted for a bill that would stop state or local governments from establishing labelling requirements for genetically engineered food products. A group of 650 agribusiness companies signed a letter in support of the measure, arguing that compulsory labelling would drive up costs and hurt US agricultural production.
The amendment to the US Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 would establish a national voluntary labelling programme for genetically engineered food products. Companies would not be required to label food produced using genetically modified organisms (GMO) and state or local governments could not create more stringent labelling standards for genetically modified food products.
“[No] State or political subdivision of a state may directly or indirectly establish under any authority or continue in effect as to any food in interstate commerce any requirement for a food that is the subject of the bio-engineered food labelling standard under this section that is not identical to that voluntary standard,” reads a clause in the amendment.
The amendment would also ban producers of non-GMO foods from claiming that their products are safer or of higher quality than GMO foods. It would also require the United States Department of Agriculture to conduct outreach to promote “consumer acceptance of agricultural biotechnology”.
Republican Kansas Senator Pat Roberts who proposed the amendment, said the change would create a uniform national standard for labeling of GMO products that protects agricultural producers.
“It is clear that what we’re facing today is not a safety or health issue. It is a market issue,” said Roberts at the Tuesday meeting where the Agriculture Committee voted 14-6 in favour of the amendment. “This is really a conversation about a few states dictating to every state the way food moves from farmers to consumers in the value chain. We have a responsibility to ensure that the national market can work for everyone, including farmers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.”