Recent Senate Labeling Bill Analysis–Last GMO labeling Stand–Saying “No”
GMO Bill Analysis by POP Campaign:
The POP Campaign is positioned as a voice for healthy lifestyles and food choices in any public policy platform. The POP Campaign appreciates the support of our community as we stand strong for food integrity and healthy choices for our families. Please support our efforts at www.popcampaign.org
On June 23rd, following a major National push-back victory preventing a rushed side-track labeling attempt in the Senate, Senator Roberts, Republican Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Senator Stabenow, Ranking Democratic, negotiated what they are calling “a compromise bill” on GMO labeling. This bill would pre-empt the Vermont labeling law and those of any other State. The POP Campaign’s appreciates the Committee’s efforts.
However, in spite of election year posturing and a lack of tolerance in Washington, our victory of a mandatory labeling provision included in this bill is a bit hollow for reasons that are explained below. The POP Campaign and its supporters choose to stand strong in demanding a “straight-up” no-nonsense labeling food bill with no “cloaking” options or advantages offered to Industry over consumer “right to know”. The POP Campaign, positioned as a voice for healthy lifestyles and quality food choices, simply seeks clear direct language guideline such as:
“All food available to consumers in the United States shall be labeled clearly whether or not it contains any Genetically Engineered ingredients, disclosing 100% of any ingredient directly or indirectly derived from a GE source or Genetically altered gene. “
Please see below a detailed analysis and breakdown of the Senate’s bill language that is proposed. It makes sense that there be a report back to the Senate on final product and a public hearing process implemented to ensure all side are heard.
Pertaining to the proposed Bill, the key thing to know is that the states laws are preempted immediately. Rather than spelling out the labeling requirements and offering an immediate implementation requirement, this Bill will take 2 years to implement and leaves most of the key decisions to the USDA Secretary, a one-time Monsanto employee favoring industry. Furthermore, it does not simply require back of label inclusion of all ingredients as requested, but prioritizes which ones would be transparently labeled and creates multiple labeling options including a scan QR code or toll free number to call to get the label information. This is unacceptable as no other food ingredient has such a complex system as a GMO derived.
It is important to note, for example, that the Genetically Engineered salmon issue appears to have been pushed under the rug and is not clearly addressed in the new Senate Bill.
This bill is on a fast track and could be voted on by both Houses between now and the July 15th summer break. The Senate could vote on this bill any day now, and the word is that the House will simple move it through on a suspension calendar procedure.
Bill Text Page 1
Purpose of the Bill: To Amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a National Disclosure Standard for Bio-engineered Foods and for other purposes.
A major overall concern is that this Bill completely passes ALL control over to the Secretary of Agriculture who was once a Monsanto employee and is considered Industry biased. As he is responsible for writing the regulations on how to inform the public about GMOs and ensure enforcement, clearly there is a “fox in the hen house” scenario and full transparency for “the good for the people” compromised every step of the way.
It is recommendation that other Federal Departments be involved in the guideline process to ensure a balanced and favorable outcome for consumers.
Bill Text Page 2 :
Line 6 to 15: ‘‘(1) BIOENGINEERING.—The term ‘bio- engineering’, and any similar term, as determined by the Secretary, with respect to a food, refers to a food—
‘‘(A) that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques; and
‘‘(B) for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.
These lines put forth the defining guidelines of bioengineering and lays out A & B sections what the Bill covers. It falls short. We suggest that the definitions are too narrow and should include any food in any manner or method connected to, grown on, or combined with any Genetically Engineered molecule in any manner. For instance, we know that certain bioengineered bases such as algae can be used as starters for growing certain products. The way the Bill is written, this may slip under the radar.
Bill Text Page 3
Line 1 – 6: ‘‘(b) APPLICATION OF DEFINITION.—The definition of the term ‘bioengineering’ under section 291 shall not affect any other definition, program, rule, or regulation of the Federal Government. ‘‘(c) APPLICATION TO FOODS.—This subtitle shall apply only to a food subject to—
We know that Government regulations are tricky, inconsistent, and massively complex and in this case, a food mine field. Wiggle room appears in Industry’s favor instead of a new standard with teeth for the consumer. It is proposed that the definition of “bioengineered” is limited to this bill and will not affect any other Bill. We the People would like wording where the language SHALL be the baseline of definition, program, rule, and regulation pertaining to food across ALL Departments and ALL regulations, including International trade CODEX related bleed through.
Lines 5 – 25: ‘‘(c) APPLICATION TO FOODS.—This subtitle shall apply only to a food subject to—‘‘(1) the labeling requirements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.); or‘‘(2) the labeling requirements under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), the Poultry Products Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 451 et seq.), or the Egg Products Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 1031 et seq.) only if—‘‘(A) the most predominant ingredient of the food would independently be subject to the labeling requirements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.); or‘‘(B)(i) the most predominant ingredient of the food is broth, stock, water, or a similar solution; and‘‘(ii) the second-most predominant ingredient of the food would independently be subject to the labeling requirements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.).
This section appears extremely tricky as apparently only the top “two” primary ingredients” are required to be labeled. This means that if 2 ingredients make up 30% and 28% of a product, these require labeling. If the next ingredient is 19%, there is no need for a transparent label. The question surfaces about regulations of items included in food that may be GE but not counted as the top two. For example, food additives, food coloring, dyes, the results of emerging technologies, etc. would not have to be labeled as genetically engineered is they are less that the percentage of the top 2 products.
This troubling language allows existing language to “cloak ingredients” which in turn will remain hidden from consumers. This language falls in line with Industry’s position and does not offer “traffic control” measures against special manipulations of language and provisions as presented by Monsanto controlled or influenced organizations using CODEX guidelines. In essence, this provision guts the intent of any efforts to seek full transparency.
The preference would be something like was presented in the European labeling provisions: For example, where when a product contains more than 2 major ingredients or compounds, the label must be accompanied by “a list, in brackets, of its ingredients in descending order of proportion (m/m)“. As consumers, we want full transparency with no exceptions, such as chocolate as one example, where certain provisions are made so as not to fully disclose all harmful ingredients to humans.
Bill Text Page 4
Line 5: ‘‘(a) ESTABLISHMENT OF MANDATORY STANDARD.— Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this subtitle, the Secretary shall—
The two-year implementation may be acceptable in general; however, only with provisions that clearly protect the consumer and not industry. Any progress made in any State, such as Vermont, at the vote of consumers ought to remain in place as an additional driver to ensure that industry will step in line with transparency.
Line 8 to 19: ‘‘(1) establish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard with respect to any bioengineered food and any food that may be bio- engineered; and‘‘(2) establish such requirements and procedures as the Secretary determines necessary to carry out the standard. ‘‘(b) REGULATIONS.—‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—A food may bear a disclosure that the food is bioengineered only in accordance with regulations promulgated by the Secretary in accordance with this subtitle.
There appears to be too much room for the Secretary of Agriculture to establish guidelines that have a “ceiling” to disclosure, especially being a past employee of Monsanto. This makes no sense and is not transparent. The wording is very tricky.
It puts into place a “ceiling” allowed and too much counter control over manufacturers who wish to be completely transparent for consumers. For example, if a food product manufacturer wishes to disclose more information on it’s product label, it would not be able to do so….in fact it would be prohibited from doing so If, for example, GE corn is used in a burger as a filler, the consumer would not be allowed to know in complete transparency.
It is suggested that further instructions are needed to instruct the Secretary to include a balance of testimony, feedback, and resulting guidelines that include input and representation from the consumers side of the issue and not just stacked in favor of the food industry.
It is further suggested that after line #11, there be an add in that “any and all ingredients or elements of a food that involved GE at a molecular level, in the process of formulation, any stage of growth, or combinations, mixing, etc.” require labeling as Genetically Engineered or Bioengineered.
Line 23 to Page 5 line 2: ‘‘(A) prohibit a food derived from an animal to be considered a bioengineered food solely because the animal consumed feed produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered substance;
This flies into the face of transparency for the consumer. It prohibits a food derived from an animal to be considered bioengineered, even if that animal only ate GE food all of its life. The language ignores the fact that the animal was force fed 100% GMO seeds, crops, grains, etc. and makes it “OK” not to inform consumers. Simply, this is not right, nor transparent for Moms and Dads.
Bill Text Page 5
Line 3 to 6: ‘‘(B) determine the amounts of a bioengineered substance that may be present in food, as appropriate, in order for the food to be a bioengineered food;
Save taxpayers money and the government bureaucrats’ time, please use the word “ALL” and end any waste of government spending and time here. Again, this means that the USDA could determine that a product that contains 28% GMO corn is not required to be labeled because it contains 40% organic grain; and 32% organic rice syrup … it may not be called organic but also not GMO…there simply is too much wiggle room here. The sliding scale is skewed towards industry. Clear and true Congressional guidance on this matter would be surprisingly wonderful and instructive.
Line 11 to 17: ‘‘(D) in accordance with subsection (d), re- quire that the form of a food disclosure under this section be a text, symbol, or electronic or digital link, but excluding Internet website Uniform Resource Locators not embedded in the link, with the disclosure option to be selected by the food manufacturer;
Simply: NO! NO! NO! Clearly, the GE product information should be on the product itself – labeled and transparent and easy to be seen by the consumer. Stop the cloak dance. This is a minimum requirement for transparency; if a link for more information is offered, terrific, but not at the cost of fully transparency..
Further, I would purport that, any technical access still would be a barrier of technology for the average consumer and therefore an infraction of the accessibility principles set forth in the ADA (American Disabilities Act). We do seek NO economic discrimination of any kind that sets the stage for discrimination and barred access to information.
Line 18 to 20: (E) provide alternative reasonable disclosure options for food contained in small or very small packages;
The small consumer is always favored and supported to ensure economic freedom and to encourage development of terrific products. However, in these cases, the disclosure of GE ingredients is a requirement 100% for consumer protection, and the larger suppliers of the products can be leveraged a fee that supports the labeling process by small manufacturers who cannot afford the costs invovled.
Bill Text Page 6
Line 15 to 18:(G) exclude— ‘‘(i) food served in a restaurant or similar retail food establishment; and (ii) very small food manufacturers.
On the contrary to excluding restaurants and small retailers, we believe that consumers should be informed of their rights at all levels. Once set up, a restaurant can easily provide consumers GE information.
The exclusion for small food manufacturers can still be challenging for consumers, although the market may be limited. This particularly comes to mind in relationship to “ very small” food provider of baby food, which may contain 100% GE corn and be allowed to be distributed under the radar with the new provisions. This is unacceptable.
Line 21 to page 7 line 2: 2), a bioengineered food that has successfully completed the pre-market Federal regulatory review process shall not be treated as safer than, or not as safe as, a non-bioengineered counterpart of the food solely because the food is bioengineered or produced or developed with the use of bioengineering.
This paragraph is HUGELY revealing as it protects the position of Industry, seeking assurance that their GE food is not viewed as “bad or less than” normal, regular, God given food products. Government has no business providing research for industry and taking a protective stance at the expense of consumers. It needs to support equally balanced research. This is “government by and for the People.”
For the government to back the “safety” of GE food would be a bias against organic and conventional food. Clearly, this is a provision to support those who fund politics…possibly, in this case Monsanto and the industry’s drivers.
Bottom line, there is an unequivocal need to equally protect consumers.
Bill Text Page 7
Line 3: ‘‘(c) STUDY OF ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL LINK DISCLOSURE.—
The response is simple – until 100% of Americans are technologically literate and have free access to the tools necessary to be properly informed of their food choices, complete product transparency should be on the food product itself. This is not rocket science.
At this time, any money spent by government on moving towards technological advancement and guidelines for electronic labeling is a waste of time and money. Notwithstanding this author’s position and most of our desires to support advancement, this is for another time. Possibly engaging high tech companies to fund such a study and effort would be more economically viable and more favorable to consumers across the board.
Line 8 to 16: ‘‘(4) ADDITIONAL DISCLOSURE OPTIONS.—If the Secretary determines in the study conducted under paragraph (1) that consumers, while shopping, would not have sufficient access to the bioengineering disclosure through electronic or digital disclosure methods, the Secretary, after consultation with food retailers and manufacturers, shall provide additional and comparable options to access the bio- engineering disclosure.
The food manufacturers are passing the buck here from full disclosure on the shelf. It is industry’s responsibility, not a store’s, to inform consumers what is in a product. This section passes the responsibility for electronic labeling and access to this information to the local store itself. This is a burden on small businesses and local businesses and creates a situation where there is no assurances that transparency can be offered at a local level.
Regarding line 11, this especially creates a “digital divide” among consumers and targets low income individuals, families, neighborhoods and seniors who are technologically challenged, disabled, or cannot afford readily accessible technology or phones. There may be a required cost involved to ensure proper access to all citizens if this tact is taken; and, Industry and Government should ensure complete access for all Americans prior to any implementation of this technological approach.
On line 16 – 17: paragraph (1) shall consider whether consumer access to the bioengineering disclosure through ……..
The word should not be “shall” but must. This entire electronic access issue is a cop out…just label food products and make it clear at the point of purchase This alternative disclosure not only restricts busy moms and dads and children, but also creates barriers in language, culture, economic affordability, etc. which has not properly been addressed.
Bill Text Page 8
This page simple continues the line of thinking around technology access to food. Again, this is a smoke screen issue that is underfunded and discriminatory as mentioned above.
Possibly funding might be provided by and for Tech companies to provide guidelines and resources to address all aspects of this issue fairly without economic or technological discrimination.
Bill Text Page 9
Line 3 to 13: ‘‘(B) any telephone number disclosure, indicating that the telephone number will provide access to additional information by stating only ‘Call for more food information.;‘‘(2) the electronic or digital link will provide access to the bioengineering disclosure located, in a consistent and conspicuous manner, on the first product information page that appears for the product on a mobile device, Internet website, or other landing page, which shall exclude marketing and promotional information;
Easy access to complete information is the goal at the point of purchase of a product. Any additional information about a food product where there is a tradeoff to complete transparency at point of purchase is simply a barrier and a violation of the intention and purpose of this legislation.
Further, access to food information would be like calling the IRS for information where there is no actual interpretation of a regulations because of liability….and a lengthy wait. Does industry really want the liability or take the risk of giving out such detailed information over the phone? Further, I cannot imagine a busy mother on the phone for ½ hour waiting to get information on her can of soup.
Make this easy; don’t over complicate this simple issue of a clear label for consumers.
Bill Text Page 10
line 4 to 13: (e) STATE FOOD LABELING STANDARDS.—Notwithstanding section 295, 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 relating to the labeling or disclosure of whether a food is bioengineered or was developed or produced using bioengineering for a food that is the subject of the national bioengineered food disclosure standard under this section that is not identical to the mandatory disclosure requirement under that standard.
Obviously, this language pre-empts Vermont and other State’s efforts to provide its constituent access to safe food. This also takes away any State’s ability to monitor it’s food supply closer than is allowed by the Feds or require “more disclosure” on certain food products for its residents
Bill Text Page 11
This section addresses record keeping and monitoring.
A major concern is that there is no clear “sanction or recall” reference or provision if a company is out of GE labeling compliance. What specifically are the warning and sanction steps offered? The Department can look away easily on this one if compliance is not spelled out or does not occur in a “self regulated” manner by a large multi-national corporation. We seek no exceptions.
Bill Text Page 12
Lines 3 to 6: ‘‘SEC. 294. SAVINGS PROVISIONS.‘‘(a) TRADE.—This subtitle shall be applied in a manner consistent with United States obligations under international agreements.
For much food that is mixed or combined with products grown internationally, this provision “requiring no labeling” as written elsewhere, appears to undercut consumer transparency and leans in favor, again, for industry over moms and dads and families.
There are too many questions here: does CODEX override US laws and regulations? What about products receive by the US through international trade? Will these require labeling of GMO? Does this mean that Monsanto grown corn from South America does not have to be labeled in a US product?
Line 13 to 16: ‘‘(2) affects the authority of the Secretary of the Treasury or creates any rights or obligations for any person under the Federal Alcohol Administra- tion Act (27 U.S.C. 201 et seq.).
This means that alcohol is out and not regulated, although we just read in the press recently how GE ingredients are found in massive quantities in wine and not disclosed to the consumer. We demand full disclosure here also, before we drink, as well as eat.
Line 17 – 21: ‘‘(c) OTHER.—A food may not be considered to be‘not bioengineered’, ‘non-GMO’, or any other similar claim describing the absence of bioengineering in the food solely because the food is not required to bear a disclosure that the food is bioengineered under this subtitle.
Legislation gibberish – what the heck does this mean? Double negatives and the appearance of double speak creates non-clarity and possible hidden meanings. Simply, consumers seek complete transparency.
Bill Text Page 13
Lines 8 to 19: ‘‘(b) FEDERAL PREEMPTION.—No State or a political subdivision of a State may directly or indirectly establish under any authority or continue in effect as to any food or seed in interstate commerce any requirement relating to the labeling of whether a food (including food served in a restaurant or similar establishment) or seed is genetically engineered (which shall include such other similar terms as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture) or was developed or produced using genetic engineering, including any requirement for claims that a food or seed is or contains an ingredient that was developed or produced using genetic engineering.
This section clearly protects industry from any local or “supportive” business being completely transparent to its consumers about the GE ingredients in a food product. Simply, here is where the Monsnato Groups insert a protection clause of its GMO crops by prohibiting consumers from revealing the truth or labeling “out of line”. If the labeling of a product is transparent and unsafe, this tapes our mouths…clearly a step backwards.
Bill Text Page 14
Lines 1 to 8: SEC. 2. ORGANICALLY PRODUCED FOOD.
In the case of a food certified under the national organic program established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 6501 et seq.), the certification shall be considered sufficient to make a claim regarding the absence of bioengineering in the food, such as ‘‘not bioengineered’’, ‘‘non-GMO’’, or another similar claim.
Here is a huge success for Organic Labels. However, monitoring is always required to ensure that there is 100% disclosure and no “hidden” ingredients allowed. Ractopamine, an animal additive, for example, can be used in meat and not labeled for consumer transparency…this labeling is a tricky business and a dance that demands constant surveillance.