Recently, Vermont became the first state in the US to pass a bill for mandatory labeling of food with genetically modified content. But that law which will come into effect from July 1st is at risk of being overturned by a new national legislation being debated in the Senate.
Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has announced that he will try and block the legislation in the Senate when it comes up for debate. He said the new Senate bill is too lenient on companies. This cannot be good for people.
Bill cannot be debated in senate after blocking unless it has support of 60 Senators
Senate rules allow senators to block bills effectively preventing them from coming up for debate. If a bill is blocked this way, it then requires the support of 60 Senators to be taken up again.
Millions of Americans support the mandatory labeling of GMO foods (90% of all Americans by some estimates). Incidentally, all food sold in Europe has to be GMO labeled. According to Bernie Sanders, the law exists in dozens of other countries too. So GMO labeling is not a new thing.
There are fears that if the Senate bill is allowed to pass, it will weaken people's rights to know what they eating. There are no mandatory standards in the new bill. Moreover, it does not have any provisions to ensure that people can actually access this information.
Why the new federal legislation is problematic
For example, a company has a range of options to inform people when a food contains GMO derived products, like QR codes, websites, on-package labeling and 800 numbers. Poor Americans may not be able to access this information because to access the information in the QR code, you need a smartphone and everybody doesn't have one.
Bernie Sanders called the Vermont bill a triumph for common folk over powerful interests such as Monsanto. If the federal bill is passed, it will overturn the Vermont bill and that can't be allowed, he said. Sanders said, major US companies have already started labeling GMO foods.
So labeling foods with GMO ingredients is not a radical thought. Vermont is the first state in the US to pass legislation requiring genetically modified food products to be labeled.