retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Hill reports that "Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has unveiled legislation to pre-empt states from issuing their own mandatory labeling laws for foods that contain genetically modified ingredients." The bill would require "the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered, or GMO, foods."

The story notes that the Roberts bill "is similar to the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 that passed the House in June, outraging consumer groups lobbying for mandatory labeling laws."

Trade groups lined up to support the Roberts proposal.

"We are very pleased that Chairman Roberts has scheduled a markup on legislation that meets an urgent need to avoid the inevitable chaos the food industry faces if left without a federal government-created standard definition that eliminates multiple state approaches,” said Jennifer Hatcher, a spokeswoman for the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). “Without immediate action, costs in the supply chain will escalate rapidly and once the resources are expended, consumer costs will inevitably rise.”

Peter J. Larkin, president/CEO of the National Grocers Association (NGA), said that "NGA and its members believe consumers should have clear and consistent information to make informed buying decisions, which is why NGA supports a uniform and voluntary standard, regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to ensure that GMO labeling of food products is consistent and transparent to consumers nationwide. We applaud Chairman Roberts for his efforts to implement a federal legislative solution.”

Opponents, however, were not persuaded.

""This bill is a desperate attempt by the junk food and chemical industries to keep Americans in the dark about what we feed our families,” said Lisa Archer, Friends of the Earth Food and Technology program director. “93 percent of Americans want GMO labeling and this effort to try and stop the consumer demand for transparency that has shaken Big Food to its core will ultimately fail."
KC's View:
It is worth noting, I think, that Sen. Roberts in the past has come out against any federal intrusion into the rights of states of make decisions about education policy. And, he's come out against any federal intrusion into the rights of states to legalize marijuana. So it is fair to say that he's a states' rights guy except when he's not. I'd love to know how much money he's received, either directly or through political action committees, from the biotech industry.