Despite losses in
California and Washington, groups in favor of labeling food
containing or consisting of genetically modified organisms
("GMO") continue legislative efforts at the state and
national level. Oregon and Colorado appear to be the next
states to vote on the issue of whether food containing GMOs should
be labeled. Pro-labeling groups are also seeking federal laws
that would require labeling of GMOs.
Initiative 27, a ballot initiative in Oregon
that would require the labeling of GMO food, recently survived a challenge in the Oregon Supreme
Court. On December 2, 2013, the Oregon Supreme Court
affirmed that Initiative 27 complied with the Oregon
Constitution's procedural requirements, and was therefore
properly certified by the Oregon Attorney General and Secretary of
State. This allows supporters of the initiative to begin
gathering the 87,213 signatures required by July 3, 2014, to place
Initiative 27 on the 2014 General Election ballot. As currently written, Initiative 27 would require
food offered for retail sale that is entirely or partially produced
with genetic engineering to disclose that information on a
label. In the absence of such a disclosure, the food would be
considered misbranded under Oregon law and any injured person would
be allowed to bring a lawsuit against the food manufacturer,
supplier, or retailer.
Arizona might be the third state to have a similar GMO labeling
initiative on the 2014 ballot. Currently, the organization
Label GMOs Arizona is sponsoring an initiative that would amend
Arizona law so that GMO food would be required to be labeled.
Similar to the proposed laws in Oregon and Colorado, unlabeled food
containing GMOs would be misbranded under state law.
In addition to state-level initiatives, anti-GMO groups are
pressuring federal lawmakers to pass national legislation that
would require labeling of GMOs. Senator Boxer and
Representative DeFazio have introduced identical bills in the Senate (Bill 809) and House (Bill 1699) that would amend the Federal
Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to deem misbranded any food that has
been genetically engineered or contains one or more genetically
engineered ingredients, unless such information appears on a
label. Such federal GMO labeling legislation would preempt
state labeling laws. The federal labeling initiatives are
still in their infancy, however, and neither has passed through the
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With a dramatic change from a progressive democratic to a conservative republican administration, we anticipate that EPA is not only likely to pivot away from an enforcement heavy to a more business friendly agenda.
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