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Industry Pressing Congress to Outlaw States' Rights to Require Labels for Genetically Engineered Food

Web Note from Rick North, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility Nov. 4, 2005

Everyone - Below is an article from Food Navigator regarding another attempt at forcing uniform food labeling throughout the country. Although the bill isn't limited to Genetically Engineered (GE foods), it would most likely pre-empt any states from GE food labeling beyond what the FDA requires, i.e., nothing.

What we have now is the FDA requiring a floor of labeling, which the states can add to. It looks as if the bill would make FDA labeling the ceiling.

This is an attempt that comes up nearly every session of Congress. The food manufacturers always push for this because they don't want the expense of extra labeling for specific states. Meanwhile, many states have very good reasons for requiring additional labeling and want to preserve that right. For instance, California and a number of other states have required safety warnings for a number of additives that were not addressed by the FDA. In 2003, Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein led the fight against similar legislation.

Also in 2003, the same food groups tried to enact similar legislation in Oregon which would have prevented the state from enacting any food labeling laws more stringent than federal laws. It came on the heels of Measure 27 in 2002 and was clearly aimed at GE foods. The bill passed the House but we were able to kill it in the Senate.

- Rick North


New legislation could standardize safety labeling throughout states From<www.foodnavigator-usa.com> By Lorraine Heller 11/2/2005 - New legislation may be passed to create a uniform system for all food safety standards and warning labels on food products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005, introduced last week, was supported by 159 members of Congress and endorsed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). Designed to provide consumers with consistent food safety information, if voted on this act would mean that food manufacturers would no longer have to label their products differently in accordance with the regulations set out by individual states. Food products that fall under the regulation of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) already have national uniform labelling <http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/search/search.asp?KEYWORDS=labelling&amp;p
eriod=all> standards. However, with FDA-regulated products, food regulation is currently composed of a variety of different, and sometimes inconsistent requirements.
³The bill seeks to harmonize those differences to achieve national uniformity; it is a move to avoid the creation of a patchwork of safety warnings. The FDA
<http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/search/search.asp?KEYWORDS=FDA&amp;period=
all> would close the loop to ensure that all foods in the US are
all> regulated
to a standard level,² said Stephanie Childs, GMA <http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/search/search.asp?KEYWORDS=GMA&amp;period=
all> spokesperson.
The act, which would affect safety standard labelling for all food additives, ingredients and constituents, consists of a review of existing state regulations that may differ from a federal regulation. Product warnings would be standardized, with states not permitted to require food manufacturers to communicate a warning in labelling, advertising, posters or any other means of communication if it differs from that imposed by the FDA.
The bill would not affect state authority in ³traditional local food enforcement matters² such as freshness dating, religious dietary labelling, organic or natural designation and unit pricing. The bill must now pass to the House Commerce Committee for consideration before being voted on.