Vermont seemed more likely than ever to become the first US state to mandate the labeling of genetically modified food (GMO) after a bill passed the state house, though legislators worry about a lawsuit threat from biotech giant Monsanto.
Similar bills seeking to provide consumers with labels at the grocery store that highlight what products contain GMOs have recently failed. In California, a ballot initiative which bypassed Congress after receiving 850,000 signatures was defeated in 2012 after a large consortium of biotech companies including Monsanto spent some $50 million on an ad blitz against the legislation.
As RT reported in late April, a new federal bill which would mandate the labeling of GMOs, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). Though few expect such laws to pass on a national level, the bill was notable for its inclusion of a wider base of bipartisan support, with nine Senate co-sponsors and 22 cosponsors in the House.
Though sixty-four other countries, including EU members, China, Russia, Brazil, India and Japan already have existing regulations in place to label GMOs for consumers the issue is a highly contentious one in the US, both at the federal and state level.
According to Senator Boxer, more than 90 per cent of Americans support the labeling of genetically engineered products. Though the Food and Drug Administration requires the labeling of over 3,000 ingredients, additives and processes it does not consider GMOs to be “materially” different as they cannot be tasted, smelled or identified by consumers by other means.
Legally, part of the argument for labeling GMOs rests on the US Patent and Trademark Office determination that GMOs are in actually materially different and novel, at least for patents filed by the biotech companies that produce and sell these products.