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GMO-Labeling Fight Heats Up Again in Congress

A new bill aims to make labeling voluntary.

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On Friday, Republican Kansas Senator Pat Roberts introduced a bill which, if passed into law, will federalize the labeling of genetically modified organisms in American food. The bill is seen by environmental and nutritional activists as an effort to keep American consumers in the dark on GMOs, and as such, detractors have come out strongly against the proposed legislation.

Celebrity chef and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio, who co-founded the activism group Food Policy Action, made his displeasure known Monday.

"Senator Roberts' ridiculous new version of the DARK Act would deny us the right to know what's in our food and how it's grown — €”the same right held by consumers in 64 other nations," Colicchio said in a press release. "Consumers should be trusted to decide their own food choices, but Senator Roberts apparently thinks Washington knows best. This is exactly the sort of crony capitalism that voters across the country are rejecting."

Opponents of the bill say it's just the latest version of the so-called DARK (Denying Americans the Right-to-Know) Act, which was passed by the U.S. House but defeated in the Senate last year. Anti-GMO organizations such as Just Label It and GMO-Free USA believe it undercuts state laws that mandate GMO labeling and makes the regulation voluntary for food companies.

"Just Label It strongly urges the Senate to reject the version of DARK Act released tonight by Senator Roberts," Just Label It chairman Gary Hirshberg said in a widely released statement. "Allowing food companies to make voluntary disclosures will simply perpetuate the status quo that has left consumers in the dark."

Hirshberg went on to point to a recent poll that found 89 percent of Americans in favor of GMO labeling and declared, "Americans have the right to know what's in their food and how it's grown." Those who believe Sen. Roberts's bill is the result of a lawmaker legislating on behalf of major corporations will be further riled by Monday's report that several big brands have spent millions of dollars on a hidden campaign to thwart GMO labeling.

The state of Vermont became the first to pass a law requiring GMO labeling last spring, and voters in Maine and Connecticut have since approved similar labeling measures. Should Sen. Roberts's bill pass, those state laws would be rendered toothless. But, proponents say it will help the food industry avoid "inevitable chaos," reports The Hill.

While activists are passionate about their cause, 25 years' worth of scientific studies have shown zero evidence of harm to humans who consume genetically modified crops.

Pat Roberts Bill