Last week, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore)--joined by chef-lebrity Tom Colicchio--announced the reintroduction of The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, a federal bill that would mandate the labeling of foods or beverages containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). The bill is Senator Boxer's second attempt at GMO labeling legislation; in 2013 she introduced similar legislation which ultimately died in committee. Considering the first attempt at such legislation was a mere two years ago, one has to wonder: will things be different this time around? We don't know the answer for certain, but here are some points to consider:
- In the last two years, state-wide labeling measures have been introduced, voted on, and rejected in a number of states, including Colorado, Oregon, and Senator Boxer's home state of California. This is the second time in two years such legislation has failed to take hold in California.
- The federal legislation will need to navigate its way through a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate. It also faces direct competition by the GOP's own GMO measure, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014. This legislation, introduced by Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), is expected to see legislative action at the committee level in March or April of this year.
- Senator Boxer’s bill includes a new provision, not in the 2013 version of the bill, that would prohibit the use of the term “natural” on GMO foods. Given that FDA has resisted numerous appeals, even from the federal judiciary, to provide a definition for “natural,” this provision will likely be subject to legal challenges.
So, given these considerations, will this bill fail to gain traction like its predecessor? We'll monitor the situation and let you know...