retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Jefferson Public Radio has a piece about how US Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) "is trying to stop a federal ban on labeling products as containing genetically modified organisms" by pushing a bill that "would permit GMO labeling, but only using small type on the back of the product."

However, it may be a little late, since the US House of Representatives already has passed a bill that would prevent any state from requiring the labeling of products containing GMOs. The US Senate - where Merkley is introducing his compromise bill - is expected to start considering a similar piece of legislation as soon as this week.

“The food producers said we need a single standard across the country. This gives that to them," Merkley says. "They’ve said they don’t want anything on the front of the table that would appear pejorative. This gives that to them."

Meanwhile, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) issued a report that is says debunks claims that a patchwork of state GMO labeling laws would create major problems for food manufacturers. "A new legal analysis by EWG’s legislative attorney finds that a simple 'produced with genetic engineering' disclosure on the back of food packaging would meet the requirements of all three state GMO-labeling laws that are already on the books," the report says.

It goes on to say that "the EWG analysis also notes that current federal law clearly allows states to require food disclosures such as GMO labels. Under the National Labeling and Education Act of 1990, states have the authority to require disclosures – and they have used it."

Of course, many in the industry disagree. A Chicago Tribune story notes that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) believes that "mandatory labeling is 'inherently misleading' because it appears to be a warning when the food is completely safe."
KC's View:
Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal has a story this morning about how both small and big food suppliers "are rushing to meet consumers’ increasing demand to know more about what’s in their food, where it came from, and how it was produced." This includes knowledge about GMOs ... and the companies and trade associations that resist the requirement that they be transparent are going to find themselves on the wrong side of history.