July 7, 2016
A group of free-market GMO experts released the following statement today regarding a Congressional effort to mandate the labeling of genetically engineered food:
In an effort to fend off a misguided Vermont law that would mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods, some members of the Senate Agriculture Committee have developed a bill that would preempt the Vermont law. Unfortunately, the Senate bill has flaws of its own that would compound, not solve, the problem. Instead of a single state law that requires mandatory on-package labeling for products that contain genetically engineered ingredients, the Senate bill would create a nation-wide labeling policy for those products.
The Senate bill’s sponsors say it would create uniformity and prevent a patchwork quilt of different state labeling laws, but creating uniform bad policy doesn’t make it good policy. Federal mandatory labeling would, among other things:
Use the power of government to compel commercial speech that is misleading to consumers.
Convey a negative connotation for genetically engineered food.
Create a mandate that is inconsistent with science, including the government’s own science.
Even worse, the federal government, not just one small state, would be providing legitimacy to mandatory labeling.
There is a rush to get ahead of Vermont’s state mandatory law, which technically went into effect on July 1. However, Vermont government officials have announced they will not begin to enforce the law until 2017. Also, the so-called patchwork of state laws problem doesn’t even exist. In fact, there’s not one other state law that is even set to go into effect.
The bill may help with compliance costs for food companies that do business in Vermont. However, the legislation would create major new regulatory costs for the many food manufacturers who don’t do business in Vermont.
The federal government, with this legislation, would be conveying to the entire nation that there’s something wrong with genetically engineered food and the many crops that American farmers currently grow. There’s likely no turning back from such a mandatory labeling requirement. Congress needs to develop sound policy, not rushed policy that would lead to irreparable harm.
Research Fellow in Agricultural Policy
The Heritage Foundation
Executive Director and Senior Fellow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Director, COA Program and Senior Fellow
Independent Women's Forum
Senior Fellow, National Center for Public Policy Research
Director, Risk Analysis Division
President, American Council on Science and Health
Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy & Public Policy
Hoover Institution, Stanford University