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GMO Labeling Headed for Senate Showdown

Products like M and M's are likely to contain GMO labeling thanks to a new law in Vermont that faces a challenge in the U.S. Senate. (N Pernot via twitter)
Products like M and M's are likely to contain GMO labeling thanks to a new law in Vermont that faces a challenge in the U.S. Senate. (N Pernot via twitter)
July 5, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine - No sooner did a new law pass in New England to require labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms than members of Congress started working to short-circuit the new labeling.

Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives for the Consumers Union, says the new law took effect in Vermont on Friday, and already is providing some GMO labeling information to consumers in other states, including Maine.

But she warns that U.S. senators are trying to cobble enough votes to pass a measure that would backtrack on GMO labeling.

"It's worse than messing around with the rules,” she states. “Congress is considering a repeal of the Vermont law, a total pre-emption."

Last week, ranking members of the Senate Agriculture Committee announced a deal on a bill that would nullify state laws that require clear, on-package labeling of food with genetically engineered ingredients.

The Senate measure would leave GMO labeling decisions to the federal government, and allow companies to use bar codes instead of clear on-package labels.

Both Maine and Connecticut have passed measures that also would require GMO labeling as long as a couple other states pass similar legislation.

Halloran says the Maine GMO measure passed with the approval of Maine's conservative governor, Paul LePage.

"It gives the ordinary person the ability to make the choices and the decisions,” she states. “It doesn't hand it off to government. So, in some ways, libertarians like this legislation."

Halloran says consumers in New England and many other states already are seeing GMO labels on products because big companies had to get ready to meet the Vermont requirement.

"A lot of companies, who are national companies, have just changed their labels nationally,” she relates. “If you look at M and M’s, they have a little label on them, some Pepsi cans, some Frito-Lay potato chips products that are exotically flavored."

Halloran says the vote could come up in the Senate as early as this week.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME