One week before the Vermont GMO labeling law will take effect, a bipartisan bill requiring mandatory labeling for products containing genetically modified ingredients has been agreed to by Senate AG committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS).  The bill, which would require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national disclosure standard for bioengineered foods, will need to be passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and would go into effect two years after passed.  If successful, the new law would specifically preempt all state GMO labeling laws and would prevent the feared patchwork of conflicting state labeling laws.

The bill has a narrow definition of genetic engineering — traits developed through in vitro recombinant DNA techniques, which could not be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.  It excludes food served in a restaurant and food derived from animals that consumed genetically modified feed.  The Secretary would be responsible for establishing a specific regulation setting forth the amount of a genetically modified substance that would require labeling. Continue Reading A New Federal GMO Labeling Standard in the Works?

Whether to label foods as either containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) or being GMO-free is getting more complicated. On the one hand, Vermont’s GMO-labeling law, which has thus far survived legal challenge, will require by next July that all foods for sale at retail in the state bear labeling regarding GMO content. On the other hand, many retailers and food producers seeking to capitalize on consumer perceptions that GMO-free foods are healthier, have voluntarily adopted GMO-free labels. No matter if such labeling is voluntary or compelled, the seller faces difficult evidentiary burdens in trying to substantiate GMO label claims. Let’s say it can be proved that GMO ingredients are not contained in a finished food item. How far up the production chain must one go in order to ensure GMOs were not otherwise involved in the process?

Last week, the popular restaurant chain Chipotle was sued in a proposed class action over its GMO-free claims. Chipotle has prominently made serving GMO-free food, and small farming in general, a centerpiece of its marketing. Its anti-GMO marketing stance has Continue Reading Here Come the GMO-Free Class Actions