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Oregon lawmaker plans to introduce federal GMO labeling bill

By Hank Schultz , 21-Feb-2013

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR is working on a bill that would make the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms a matter of federal law, a spokesperson confirmed yesterday. If passed, the bill, which is still in its early formative stages and which has Rep. Jared Polis, D-CO as potential co-sponsor, presumably would supercede the numerous state-level efforts underway to pass GMO labeling laws.

“We are trying to build awareness for GMO labeling which the congressmen thinks is very important,” Andy Schultheiss, district director in Polis’ office told FoodNavigator-USA.

Polis yesterday hosted an event at the Alfala’s natural foods store in Boulder, CO, in support of GMO labeling.  Officials from White Wave, the soy foods manufacturer, were scheduled to take part, Schultheiss said.

Gathering storm

An event in Boulder on GMO labeling is preaching to the choir. Nevertheless it is indicative of the gathering pressure on the topic. 

A New Jersey coalition of  consumer, environmental, labor, health, faith and business organizations plans a news conference today to announce the launch of a statewide campaign to pass legislation that would require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods in that state.  The activists will present a letter from more than 30 advocacy organizations calling on legislative leaders to move a GE labeling bill through the state legislature. The bill, A3192/S1367, has already been co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of a dozen legislators in the Senate and Assembly.

In addition, a GMO labeling bill has been introduced in the Iowa state legislature.  That bill would require labeling for all foods containing more than nine-tenths of one percent GE ingredients, meaning any foods containing excipients from genetically modified corn or soybeans would need new labels.  Yet another bill has been introduced in the Illinois state legislature; that bill sets a 1% threshold for GE labeling.

And in Washington state, a citizen’s petition requiring GE labeling has gathered sufficient signatures to be sent on the state legislature.  Washington law provides that the legislature can refer the petition on to the voters (observers say this is the most likely scenario) for final approval on the next ballot in November, adopt it as is as law, or amend it and send that version plus the original on to voters to let them choose which one becomes law.  Washington lawmakers held a hearing on the petition on Feb. 14.

DeFazio on GMOs

DeFazio has a long history on the GMO issue and with the associated subject of organic farming and certifications.  Last year, DeFazio joined Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, in authoring a bicameral letter to Congress asking that members support a petition to FDA asking the agency to institute GMO labeling requirements.

“We reject the false dichotomy that being for GE food labeling is being anti-GE foods,” the pair wrote. “This isn’t a matter of being for or against GE foods, it’s a basic stance that consumers should be the ones to decide what they eat and feed their families.”

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