Dems give mandatory GMO labeling bill a second try

By Whitney Forman-Cook

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2015 - Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut along with Rep. Pete DeFazio, D-Ore., held a press conference today to reintroduce a mandatory GMO labeling bill that will face stiff opposition in a Congress controlled by Republicans.

Together we can feed the Bees"

Boxer said the more than 30 other Democrats in the House and Senate who are sponsoring the legislation are up to the challenge. “A lot of things don't have a chance around this joint, but that doesn't mean we're not going to push it,” Boxer said. “Ninety percent of the people want this and it's up to us… to make it an important issue.”

The newest version of the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act - a similar bill went nowhere in the previous Congress - would require manufacturers to clearly label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients (GMOs). It includes several tweaks, including a provision that would prohibit the use of the term "natural" on GMO foods.

Offering their support for the bill at today's news conference were celebrity chef Tom Colicchio and several advocacy organizations including Food Policy Action, Environmental Working Group, Just Label It and Center for Food Safety.

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“We need a congress that supports people, not corporations,” said Colicchio. “I'm not anti-science, but corporations are using these technologies as a business model to sell farmers more herbicides” - herbicides that he said are increasingly showing up in the nation's food supply.

This Congress, despite Republican control, may very well be amenable to this bill the second time around, said DeFazio. The 1990 law that established the National Organic Program was approved amid tremendous opposition, he recalled, “because of a huge grassroots, groundswell around the country of people that wanted that label.”

“We won that battle against all odds at that time and this is a very similar battle,” DeFazio said. “The American people want the information.”

The legislation would align federal law with proliferating state labeling efforts. Most Republicans, however, are backing legislation proposed by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan. The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, introduced last year, would establish a federal labeling standard for foods containing GMOs, giving sole authority to the FDA to require mandatory labeling on such foods if they are ever found to be unsafe. Pompeo has said he plans to reintroduce a similar bill this year.

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