US Senate agri leaders agree on GE labelling bill

The legislation would require labelling of GE food products but prohibit states from passing similar laws.

Democrats and Republicans on the US Senate agriculture committee have agreed on a bill that would require labelling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

The bill exempts meat, poultry and egg products, and prohibits the US Secretary of Agriculture from considering a diet of GE feed as a condition for labelling an animal product genetically engineered.

Although the bill requires labelling of GE components for most food manufacturers, it would allow labelling via QR code or, for small companies, a telephone number.

Senate agriculture committee chair, Pat Roberts has warned that allowing labelling laws at state level would create a “patchwork” of regulation. The new federal legislation would prohibit states from passing their own requirements for GE labelling, as Vermont has recently done.

Food industry groups have complained that labelling requirements create the impression that GE foods are unsafe, while advocates of labelling say disclosing GE content allows consumers to make informed decisions.

Industry group The National Grocers Association described the new bill was a win for consumers and families.

Since GE crop varieties were introduced in the US in 1996, they have spread to nearly half of all US farmland, concentrated particularly in major row crops.

The National Grain & Feed Association said earlier this year that China’s rejection of grains produced by widely used GM seeds cost the US $6.3 billion in exports since September last year.

Former chief strategic officer at China Investment Corporation, Johannes Zhou, said at the Agri Investor forum in Melbourne this month that as the world continues to use more genetically-modified grain, China too planned to relax laws banning certain genetically-engineered crops.