Lawmakers are pushing for new legislation to be passed that would effectively prevent states from making mandatory for products with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled.
For years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been telling the public that eating food that contain GMOs is safe, but it hasn't stop many people to be wary of its potential risks to human health.
Scientists are worried that the herbicide used to spray on GMO crops could produce unwanted effects on people that will eat them. This led consumer groups to call on the government to place GMO labels on products made using the bioengineered ingredient.
In 2014, legislators in Vermont adopted a law that makes it mandatory for food products with genetically engineered organisms to be labeled before they can be sold in the state. The legislation is set to take effect this year on July 1.
With a little over four months left until the new law takes effect, food companies are scrambling to figure out how to place GMO labels on their products that are set to be sold to a state that has a fewer number of people than Brooklyn, or if they should just tell consumers in the country which of their products have GMO ingredients.
Various trade associations, such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Snack and Food Association (SFA), have sued the state of Vermont in federal court in order to block the new legislation.
The groups claim that the law forces them to take on "new speech requirements" as well as violates the U.S. Constitution by "regulating nationwide distribution and labeling practices that facilitate interstate commerce."
The court, however, dismissed an injunction that would have prevented the GMO labeling law from being implemented in 2015. The Grocery Manufacturers Association immediately filed an appeal that is currently pending.
Meanwhile, some members of the United States Congress are trying to push a new bill through designed to block state-level laws that would mandate the labeling of GMO products in favor of voluntary labeling instead.
The bill was able to clear the Senate Agricultural Committee last week and could be called in for a Senate vote as early as next week.
Backers of this new legislation include prominent members of the food manufacturing industry such as DuPont, ConAgra, Walmart and Coca-Cola.
Sen. Jeff Merkley from Oregon, one of the supporters of the alternative bill, said that it would provide a solution that would benefit both food makers and consumers.
"There is a way to give consumers the information they are asking for without placing unfair or conflicting requirements on food producers," Merkley told the Huffington Post.
"This legislation provides the common-sense pathway forward."
Mondelez International, the maker of Oreo cookies, and Kraft Heinz expressed their support for voluntary GMO labeling. They said that placing mandatory labels on products could mislead customers instead, and that additional production and labeling costs could be passed on to the public.
Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the common herbicide for GMO crops known as glyphosate could potentially cause cancer in humans.
In February, the FDA said that it will begin screening food products available in the United States for traces of glyphosbate.
Photo: Lindsay Eyink | Flickr