New Mandatory GM Labeling Bill Introduced in the Senate

March 8, 2016

The Biotechnology Food Labeling Uniformity Act, S.2621, was introduced by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Bernard Sanders (I-VT) on March 2, 2016. The bill would establish a mandatory federal labeling regime for genetically modified (GM) foods, preempt state GM labeling requirements (including Vermont’s), and require manufacturers to disclose the presence of GM ingredients in food on the information panel of the label in one of four ways:

  • Stating “(Genetically Engineered)” after each relevant ingredient in the ingredient list;
  • Identifying GM ingredients with an asterisk linked to an explanation after the ingredient list;
  • Indicating generally at the end of the ingredient list that the product was produced or partially produced with genetic engineering (with the exact wording of the statement to be established by FDA); or
  • Using a symbol on the package (to be developed by FDA in consultation with food manufacturers) that would clearly and conspicuously indicate the presence of GM ingredients.

The framework, which would be administered by FDA, provides some exemptions from labeling, e.g., where processed food contains less than 0.9% GM ingredients by weight and where GM processing aids were used in food production.

The Senate is also considering S.2609, which would establish a voluntary, USDA-administered GM labeling regime and would preempt state requirements in this area. Introduced by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), S.2609 was approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee on March 1, with 14 out of 20 committee members voting in favor of the markup