Organic Consumers Association

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WA: FAQ on GMO Labeling Bills SB 6298/ HB 2637

Key questions and answers

SB 6298/ HB 2637

Who is liable  

The obligation to disclose a product produced with genetic engineering, and to refrain from promoting or advertising a product as "natural" if made through GE, falls only on the person responsible for the packaging/advertising of a processed food (the manufacturer) -- or, for an unpackaged raw commodity, the person  responsible for the retail shelf or bin (retail grocer). 

No one else would be liable for any violation under this lawNo one can become liable merely by shipping a mislabeled product or distributing it.  (Providing a false affidavit, under the exemption based on affidavits, that a product has not been intentionally produced through GE, etc, knowing that it is false, would be perjury of course.)

Who will enforce it & how will it be enforced.

The state does NOT have responsibility to go out and initiate enforcement. The bill is designed so enforcement may be pursued by private citizens -- or by the state through the Attorney General.

For instance, a c itizen may test a product and if he or she finds out it was produced with genetic engineering and that's not disclosed, the citizen must notify the Attorney General, and if the Attorney General doesn't act within 60 days, then the citizen may pursue the action through the courts.  

The state may initiate enforcement through the Attorney General, but the bill does not require the state to test or enforce. The whole idea of this approach is that we don't want something that is going to cost the state $$.  

Will they be liable for shipping something incorrectly labeled or not labeled

Read the exemptions: SEC. 3 (c) (4) Disclosure with respect to genetic engineering: "Requirements do not apply to..."

If a party unknowingly has a product produced through GE, they're exempt. For example, if you buy something that's supposedly not engineered, all you need is an affidavit saying it was not produced through genetic engineering and you're covered, you're fine, exempt.  

(a) If your product is apples, don't have to worry because apples are not genetically engineered, not on the list. 

(b) If animals are vaccinated with a GE vaccine, the meat or dairy from that animal does not get labeled. So rBHG milk doesn't get labeled.

(c) If a shipper buy s soy and has an affidavit  saying the soy is not GE, they're covered because it's "...not knowingly produced..." If it turns out the soy has some background level of GE contamination, if not knowingly done, they're not liable. (d) "any processed food..." if the food uses GE processing aides and/or enzymes (as in bread, since engineered yeasts are used in fermentation), they're exempt

(e) alcohol is exempt

(f) any processed food can have up to 0.9% providing it is adventitious or unavoidable


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