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New GMO Labeling Could be Undone by U.S. Senate

Products such as M and M's are likely to contain GMO labels in New Hampshire thanks to a new law in Vermont that faces a challenge in the U.S. Senate. (M. Clifford)
Products such as M and M's are likely to contain GMO labels in New Hampshire thanks to a new law in Vermont that faces a challenge in the U.S. Senate. (M. Clifford)
July 5, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. – 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 New Hampshire.

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.

The New Hampshire House voted down a GMO labeling measure this session, but Maine and Connecticut have passed measures, and a measure still is pending in Massachusetts.

"So there are bills in this entire area that are very close to going, and I think everybody is just looking to Washington to see if these bills are going to be put out of business," Halloran states.

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 - NH