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Food Industry Lobbies Congress to Block Mandatory Labeling of GMOs

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It wants to ensure GMO labeling for food remains voluntary.

Corn harvest.
Corn harvest.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Despite a recent poll expressing Americans' overwhelming desire for mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms, an industry group called Coalition for Safe Affordable Food is doing its damnedest to ensure labeling remains voluntary. The Associated Press reports that the group "hopes to get a provision in a massive spending bill that Republicans and Democrats want to wrap up this week" — a provision that would head off at a federal level any state laws on the issue of mandatory GMO labeling.

The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food is supported by national trade associations including the American Beverage Association, American Frozen Food Institute, and of course the National Corn Growers Association, since most of the corn in America is now genetically engineered for resistance to herbicides like Roundup. In its letter to Congress, the Coalition called it "imperative that Congress take action now to prevent a costly and confusing patchwork of state labeling laws from taking effect next year and spreading across the country."

A pro-labeling group called Just Label It! countered the Coalition's chief argument in a statement, asserting, "The solution to consumer confusion is to provide people with more information, not less." The New York Times editorial board agrees, insisting "consumers deserve to know what they are eating."

Vermont presents the most pressing challenge to the food industry status quo; the famously progressive northeastern state became the first to pass a law requiring GMO labeling last spring. The law will go into effect July 1, 2016 if the state can fend off a legal attack from food companies. Maine and Connecticut voters have also approved labeling measures, though those won't kick in until more neighboring states okay similar laws. And unless mandatory GMO-labeling laws succeed, you could soon be eating genetically modified salmon without even knowing it.

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