Sen. Bernie Sanders, the fading Democratic Socialist presidential hopeful, shows just how much he respects science by celebrating the demise of voluntary food labeling legislation in the Senate. The Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Act would have established a national voluntary food labeling scheme that would allow food purveyors to label their products as containing or not containing ingredients made from modern biotech crops. Anti-biotech activists opposed the bill because it would have preempted mandatory GMO labeling laws in states like Vermont and Connecticut. The goal of the activists is to mislead consumers into mistaking mandatory GMO labels as some kind of warning that foods made from modern biotech crops are nutritionally different or unsafe. In other words, the activists are engaged in a disinformation campaign against biotech crops and Sanders is enabling them.
Sanders' press release states;
"I am pleased that Congress stood up to the demands of Monsanto and other multi-national food industry corporations and rejected this outrageous bill. Today's vote was a victory for the American people over corporate interests.
"Sen. Roberts' legislation violates the will of the people of Vermont and the United States who overwhelmingly believe that genetically modified food should be labeled. Republicans like to talk about states' rights, but now they are attempting to preempt the laws of Vermont and other states that seek to label GMOs."
Bernie's appeal to federalism is thoroughly disingenuous. First, he knows that most staple groceries are sold nationwide, so complying with Vermont's mandatory labeling would most likely force food companies to put labels on all of their products. Second, his federalism falls away when it comes to issues like imposing a nationwide ban on so-called assault weapons.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas who sponsored the voluntary labeling legislation claims that mandatory labels would cost consumers an extra $1,050 per year whereas anti-GMO activists counter that labeling would add only $2.30 per year to the cost of food. Whatever the direct costs, the indirect costs of lower farm productivity will mean plowing down more forests and pastures to grow food.
For more background, please read my article, "The Top Five Lies About Biotech Crops."
Additional note: The bill as amended by Sen. Roberts was not as "voluntary" as it should have been. He compromised with a proposal to give food companies two years to get 70 percent of food products into the SmartLabel program backed by big food purveyors. SmartLabel would enable consumers to scan a code on the package that would then to take them to a web page providing all kinds of information about the product including the presence of ingredients derived from biotech crops. This would, however, avoid an on-package GMO or No GMO label. The 70 percent threshold was no doubt set as a way for small companies to avoid the whole labeling issue if they chose to do so.
The upshot is that the Robert's bill as amended was not so great, but it still failed to satisfy the activists' demands for mandatory misleading labels on food packaging.