The U.S. House Agriculture Committee has approved a bill that could ban all mandatory GMO labeling in the United States. H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 would not require food companies to disclose their use of genetically modified ingredients. Under the bill, companies that want to indicate that a product is “GMO-free” may still do so.
The Star Tribune reports, “The bill represents a major victory for the food and chemical industries, which fought and failed in court to stop mandatory GMO labeling.”
The bill has found predictable support among trade associations and big food companies such as Land O’Lakes, Cargill, Hormel, and General Mills. “A state-by-state patchwork of [GMO] labeling requirements would be confusing to consumers, create supply disruptions, and increase food prices,” Cargill officials argued. “Cargill also supports the creation of a voluntary USDA-administrated certification and labeling program for non-GMO food products.”
The use of genetically modified organisms has been the subject of fierce controversy, compelling 64 countries across the world to adopt GMO-labeling rules, while 26 others have issued full or partial bans on GMO use, including France, India, and Mexico.
To create GMOs, the DNA from one or more species is added to the DNA of a particular crop in order for it to gain certain desirable traits, such as the ability to tolerate pesticides. Monsanto is the largest producer of genetically modified seeds in the world and is the leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed under the Roundup brand.
The Argentinian Federation of Health Professionals labeled glyphosate a carcinogen, explaining, “Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.”
Likewise, the World Health Organization has called glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen.”
Despite these health concerns, however, GMO usage continues to expand. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which opposes GMO labeling, as much as 80 percent of foods in grocery stores contain GMO ingredients.