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Friday, February 26, 2016

Senate GMO Labeling Bill Would Keep Consumers in the Dark

Senate GMO Labeling Bill Would Keep Consumers in the Dark

Like a House version, the bill would preempt state laws

By Consumer Reports

February 23, 2016

The July deadline requiring GMO labeling on packaged foods sold in Vermont is fast approaching. But some members of Congress and players in the food industry are still trying to stop this new law from taking effect.

Last week, Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced a draft bill that's essentially the Senate's version of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (H.R. 1599)—which has also been called the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act by consumer groups, including Consumer Reports. That bill was passed by the House of Representatives this past summer.

Like the DARK Act, Roberts’ version would preempt any state GMO labeling laws, such as Vermont’s new law, and calls on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set voluntary GMO labeling standards. But it also directs the USDA to promote GMOs. The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to review the bill this week and it could soon come to the full Senate for a vote.

One of the food industry’s arguments against mandatory GMO labeling is that it would raise food prices. Most recently, a study released by the Corn Refiners Association (corn grown in the U.S. is largely genetically modified) concluded that consumers would spend an extra $1,000 per year at the supermarket.

But a previous analysis by Consumer Reports, conducted by an independent economic research firm, found that GMO labeling would add just $2.30 per year to the average consumers’ grocery bill—or less than a penny per day. See the full report (PDF).

Why such a large difference in the numbers?

“Like previous industry-funded studies, the Corn Refiners Association study lumps the cost of changing food labels to list GMO ingredients together with the cost of producing products using non-GMO ingredients,” says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. “Our findings are much more realistic because we looked at the labeling costs only, which is all the Vermont law requires.”

Indeed, in January when Campbell Soup Co. announced that it would label its products as containing GMOs, the company made it clear that there would be no increase in the price of its products.

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