House Votes to Block States From Requiring GMO Labeling

The bill would give federal authorities the only say on disclosures when it comes to genetically modified food.

(Photo: Sarah Conard/Reuters)

Jul 23, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

In a move that is sure to stir controversy in one of the biggest food debates in America today, House Republicans overwhelmingly voted to pass legislation Thursday that bars states and local authorities from mandating labels for genetically modified foods.

Better known as GMOs, the seeds of some crops are engineered to resist herbicides. GMOs are common in America’s corn and soybean crops, which are mostly used to feed animals for slaughter or turned into processed foods such as high-fructose corn syrup. The food industry and government officials say GMOs are safe, but consumer advocates have long sought transparency on labels, arguing that we don’t really know the long-term impacts of GMOs.

The legislation puts the brakes on moves to disclose GMO food all over the country, putting the decision to label squarely in the province of the Food and Drug Administration. Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont have passed bills demanding better transparency for such foods, and dozens more states have been moving to do the same—all for naught if the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by the president.

At last tally, H.R. 1599 passed Thursday 275–150, with 45 Democrats joining 230 Republicans to approve it. On the bill’s passage, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., stood to call for an amendment to change the name of the legislation to the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act “to reflect what the bill actually does.”

That was voted down.

In debate ahead of the bill’s passage, Democrats argued the bill would make it impossible for people to know what they were eating, and called for better transparency when it comes to genetically modified foods.

The bill was backed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group representing 300 food, beverage, and consumer packaged goods companies—which, all told, is a $2.1 trillion industry that employs 14 million workers in the U.S.

RELATED: The USDA’s New GMO-Free Label Is a Gift to Big Food

In a statement, the trade group said the legislation is needed to protect “the consumer from a costly and confusing 50 state patchwork of labeling laws by ensuring that the federal government retains its authority at the top of America’s food safety pyramid.”

Nonprofit public interest advocates at the Center for Food Safety had harsh words for the corporate lean of the legislation and its effects on the American food system.

“Passage of this bill is an attempt by Monsanto and its agribusiness cronies to crush the democratic decision-making of tens of millions of Americans. Corporate influence has won and the voice of the people has been ignored,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, in a statement.

So, Why Should You Care? The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration, and it’s not too late for our leaders to hear where you stand on GMOs.