VPIRG Letter to President Obama: Veto the Sham Labeling Bill

*You can still make your voice heard on this issue. Sign the official White House petition asking President Obama to veto this bill!*

As delivered to President Barack Obama:

I am writing on behalf of Vermont Public Interest Research Group to ask you to veto the Roberts-Stabenow bill regarding labels on genetically engineered foods. This bill was hastily and poorly crafted outside of the committee process, without testimony, and with limited opportunity for amendments or debate. The result is legislation that eliminates existing state laws governing the labeling of genetically engineered food and seed, without replacing them with a meaningful national standard.

Vermont’s labeling law took effect on July 1st, and companies are already providing consumers with clear on-package labeling that allows them to make informed decisions about the food they are purchasing. Vermont’s law is not novel or unique. Over 90% of Americans support labeling genetically engineered foods, and these products are already labeled in more than 64 countries around the world.

VPIRG is one of the founding members of the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition that helped craft Vermont’s Act 120, which the Roberts-Stabenow bill would eliminate. The Roberts-Stabenow legislation is deeply flawed on many levels, and we join millions across the country in asking you to veto this bill. Even the FDA has weighed in with its concerns about this legislation, saying that the narrow definition of bioengineered foods “will likely mean that many foods from GE sources will not be subject to this bill.”[i]

Equally as troubling is the fact that the bill would allow disclosure through digital codes that are discriminatory, and would be inaccessible to approximately half of rural and low income Americans without smartphones or cell phone service.[ii] This is clearly an inadequate means of disclosure considering less than 20% of Americans have ever used them to scan one of these digital codes.[iii] Beyond all of this, there are no penalties for lack of compliance and no authority to recall products that are not properly labeled.

Thanks to the success of Vermont’s labeling law, we have avoided a patchwork of regulations and companies are choosing to label their products for consumers around the country.  Americans deserve a national labeling standard that is at least as strong as Vermont’s law, and provides clear on-package labeling that humans can read. In 2007 you promised, “…we’ll let folks know if their food has been genetically modified because Americans should know what they are buying.” Today we ask you to deliver on that promise, and to veto this legislation that will only serve to keep consumers in the dark about what is in the food they eat and feed their families.

Falko E. Schilling, Esq.
VPIRG Consumer and Environmental Advocate

[i] FDA/HHS Technical Assistance on Senate Agriculture Committee draft legislation to establish a national disclosure standard for bioengineered foods (EDW16734), June 27, 2016. P 2

[ii] U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015: Chapter One: A Portrait of Smartphone Ownership. Aaron Smith. Pew Research Center. April 1, 2015.

[iii] Findings From A National Survey Of Likely 2016 General Election Voters November 2015. Mark Mellman. The Mellman Group, USA. Dec, 2, 2015.

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