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GMO Labeling Bill Introduced in U.S. Congress

Today Colorado’s Jared Polis will announce, outside a reborn organic retail store in Boulder, that he is introducing a federal bill in Congress to mandate the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms in all 50 states.

And next Tuesday, the Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee will hold a public hearing on state House Bill (HB) 0903, setting disclosure and labeling requirements for GMO foods. A similar bill was introduced in Iowa, and Washington State’s Initiative 522 is still moving along.

A battle in Congress over uniform labeling of genetic changes to food would be bigger and more costly than even last November’s initiative campaign in California. Whether Rep. Polis (D-Boulder) can turn his bill into more than just a  district press event with a big donor, remains to be seen.

Polis is taking on some heavy lifting in the current Congress. His name is already on bills to “de-federalize” and then tax marijuana. Those two bills are an attempt to make federal law consistent with Colorado and Washington State laws, where voters have made recreational use of marijuana legal and created a legal thicket.

In a press release announcing tomorrow’s event, Polis said he is proud “to help lead the GMO labeling bill.”  He says it is all about “consumer choice and information.”

“It’s important to empower people with information they need to make their own healthy choices,” he said. “People have the right to make consumer decisions based on accurate transparency in labeling, and knowledge is power.”

Polis serves on House schools and rules committees, but was just named parliamentarian for the minority party whip organization, which gives him a toe-hold in leadership.

At today’s press event, he’ll be standing beside Mark Retzloff, chairman of Alfalfa’s Market. Retzloff was a pioneer in organic retailing, opening the organic Pearl Street Market in Boulder back in 1979, evolving it into “Alfalfa’s” in 1983 and then  expanding to 11 stores.  Alfalfa’s merged with Wild Oats Markets in 1996.

Jack Mackey and his girlfriend Rene Lawson started “SaferWay,” the organic store in Austin that would evolve into Whole Foods Market in 1978.  It made unsuccessful plays for Alfalfa’s before acquiring it with the purchase of  Wild Oats in 2007.   The Federal Trade Commission challenged the sale, but it was eventually approved by a federal judge who included a requirement that Whole Foods sell off a dozen existing and 19 former organic grocery store sites.

It was retailers like Retzloff and Mackey who were among those responsible for U.S. sales of organic food and beverages going from $1 billion in 1990 to almost $27 billion by 2010.  Annual sales for 331 Whole Foods Markets currently stand at about $9 billion.

A site that Whole Foods had to shed – the location of the original Alfalfa’s Market – is now back in Retzloff’s possession and called Alfalfa’s once more.

That location, 1651 Broadway in Boulder, is the Alfalfa’s where Polis will be conducting his press conference today.

Retzloff, a contributor of at least $4,700 to “Friends of Jared Polis” since 2007, has donated $33,500 directly to Democratic candidates over the same time period, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

But not all of Retloff’s interests are popular in organic circles.

The 62-year-old Retloff also serves on the Board of Directors for Aurora Organic Dairy, which last year agreed to pay plaintiffs $7.5 million in a class-action consumer fraud lawsuit to settle charges alleging that the company made fraudulent marketing claims concerning organic milk.

The Cornucopia Institute said Boulder-based Aurora Dairy is “a giant factory farm operator with industrial scale operations in Colorado and Texas.” The settlement ended a challenge to Aurora originally brought to the USDA by Cornucopia.

After California’s Proposition 37 went down in defeat, proponents of GMO labeling have looked for other states that might adopt such a measure.

A GMO labeling bill was tabled fairly early in the current session of the New Mexico Legislature. HB 0903 is getting a public hearing in Maryland, but Senate File (SF) 194 in the Iowa Senate hasn’t yet gone anywhere.

In Washington State, an Initiative to the Legislature, I-522, will go to the voters this fall if lawmakers do not act upon it first, giving voters an alternative to chew on.

© Food Safety News
  • Oginikwe

    We’ve been here before.


    US Senate votes against GMO food labels 73-26 (Food
    Freedom News) 6/23/2012: http://foodfreedomgroup.com/2012/06/23/senate-votes-no-gmo-food-labels/

    •  It’s a little different this time Oginikwe. This time citizens of the USA are actually becoming aware of the existence of GMOs.  They are becoming aware and angry at the lack of transparency in the food supply, including GMOs.  Yes. It is a bit different this time.

      •  Jan
        may i ask you which foods contain ingredients from ionizing radiation mutagenesis?  You don’t know but yet this much more disruptive breeding method is not called for to be labelled, why?

        • ‘an ol’ lady over the 50 hill’

          We are uninformed, Robt, just as we were on GMOs until just recently. that’s the way BIG AGRI wants it.

  • CorkyJackson

    California’s Proposition 37 BARELY went down in defeat: 48.6% to 51.4% after a $50 million PR campaign of lies.  

    We will prevail next time.

    Legislators need to heed the change in the air, do their job and stop making the voters do their work for them.

    •  corky

      May I ask you if you want “made with ionizing radiation mutagenesis” to be on food labels?  this breeding method is far far more disruptive to the DNA than GE breeding.  If the right to knnow is the argument for labeling foods with GE ingredients then why is ionizing radiation mutagenesis breeding not also a ‘right to know” issue?

  • It could be more simply done if those companies selling GMO-free  products would state that on their labels. I would think their sales skyrocketing would be a good incentive. 

  • Why don’t those companies with GMO-free products label them. Skyrocketing sales would be a good incentive

    • Because nothing is holding them accountable which is why Naked Juice is facing a class action lawsuit.

    • Scott Biba

      There is an organization that provides a GMO free labelling program.  And from what I understand they are pretty thorough.  It is called GMO Free Project.  http://www.nongmoproject.org/  You can see their label on some products, epsecially in the organic section of the store.  It is a small blue label with a picture of a butterfly.  I know Udi’s is in the process of getting certified.  I have even seen it on some supplements.

    • beccadoggie10

      Because Monsanto will target them and put them out of business. But, when companies join the Non-GMO Project, they are verified and the friendly, non-GMO Project label is now on the product making the announcement to informed consumers that this product has been tested and verified to be GMO free.

      This action will work, but we need more. We need states to come out in support of mandatory labeling to give consumers the right to know about GMO’s in food. And, a number of initiatives are in the works as I type. But Monsanto is putting out of business seed companies for herbs, organic gardeners and farmers, and organic medicinals. If major action does not occur immediately, there will be no seeds left to plant that are not GMO! Additionally, some states in the upper Mid West are disallowing home gardeners to grow their own food. Can you believe this? Those states are obviously working the extended arm for the biotech industries!

  • MonicaByTheShore

    GO Colorado! Do what California couldn’t do, you can do it!!!

    • Actually, California did do it. But the election was stolen. The evidence is overwhelming.

    • beccadoggie10

      No state can do this alone.

      I don’t live in California and hence could not vote. But I contributed money from my food allowance for their right to know. Money is needed from each of us to fight for the right to know. Have you contributed to the Organic Consumer Fund?

  • So once again its the organic lobby calling for food to be labelled if the crop was created in the first place using genetic engineering. They claim its a “right to know” argument.   If that were true then why are these “traditional breeding methods” (ionizing radiation mutagenesis, chemical mutagenesis,) not also to be on the label?

    Clearly because the organic food industry right to know does not extend to the breeding methods used to create some of their food.  The organic isndustry wants “made with GMO” on the competition label but does not want “made with ionizing radiation mutagenesis” on their own organic food labels.  hmmm

    • Robert, I want to see GMO specifically because the FDA/EPA have not done their job thoroughly in protecting consumers. Show me the peer-reviewed data that proves the safety of GMO and I will be quiet. Until then I chose to believe the public information suggesting GMO links to various diseases and the fact that consumers have the right to know.

      If the “traditional breeding methods” are as bad then I would like to see them identified as well. We should not ignore one bad practice just because others are currently ignored. Do you have a better argument than that?  

      Perhaps you also think that it’s ok that High Fructose Corn Syrup can just be labelled “Sugar”?

  • C4G

    We have the right to know!!! We have the right to choose!!! NO GMO!!! 

  • Meanwhile, organic food producers are not waiting.  They are starting to label their products “NON GMO”.

    Bye-bye Monsanto! Bye-bye! It’s time for the most evil corporate person alive to die.

    •  So people who want to avoid GM foods do already have a choice then.  thought so.

  • As always, I am mystified by the anti-GMO posters here. *Right now* there exists GMO-free certification organizations that will certify and label a food producer’s products (for a fee, of course!). Here’s one site: http://www.nongmoproject.org/. 

    Evidently there are some who simply want GMOs banned, and a label won’t satisfy them. (But neither will a Federal labeling law.) But for those of you who claim to simply *want to know* which foods are GMO-free, what need is not met by (1) this third-party label or (2) the “Organic” label, for which it’s a USDA requirement that the inputs be non-GMO.

    Personally I want to know if anything I’m eating was touched by a left-handed person (they’re sinister, you know) or a woman during the 7 days of her uncleanliness (see Leviticus). So none of these will help me. But I do hope Congress will get around to dealing with *my* needs eventually.

    • tamarque

       the problem is that labeling is not sufficient to contain the takeover of the food supply by Monsanto and their ilk.  An executive openly admitted in an interview that they wanted to control the world’s food.  That is what the issue is about.  Not only is laboratory manufactured food dangerous to our health and environment, it is also a question of allowing a corporation, set up for greed and power, to be able to control life itself.  Think about it.  When people are totally subservient to a corporation for their lives, it is a form of slavery.  Further, it allows the further development of practices such as eugenics which the Nazis practiced.  They learned it from the Americans.  So now it can become part of public policy in the US if we are not vigilant and organized against it.

      GE is a danger and labeling is only the beginning.

      • beccadoggie10

        But labeling is crucially important because then immediate action can be taken and the biotech industries and the foods that contain their GMO’s know this, which is the reason that are funding the no right to know campaigns, alike in California. The opposition to prop 37 at its own web site, including physicians peddling recombinant DNA pharmaceuticals, and they are afraid these will be next.

        My physician prescribed one such product for my bone loss, and I won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. No way will I put even one pill into my mouth!

    • ross Heidebrecht

      Completely missed the point, didn’t you? Great comparison though, left-handed germs are exactly the same as inserting genes between unrelated species. You do realize that 49 countries around the world require labeling right? Including China, Japan and pretty much all of the EU. Regardless of whether or not you understand the effects of GMOs biologically, you should probably try to understand that some people just don’t want to support intellectual property rights, and chemical/weapons companies that are attempting to “feed the world”. 

  • What are you talking about? 

  • Emily Dale

    If all these things: GMOs, mutagenesis, antibiotics and feed containing animal byproducts are safe, why is there so much resistance to labeling them as what they contain? We are told if there is HFCS, food coloring, etc., so why not the aforesaid?

  • Good point Kathleen.
    The cost of mandating labeling will skyrocket cost of food to everyone.
    Dont they have enough to do but screw around with regulation that expands government and inflates costs to people that cant afford it.
    This guy needs to get a real Job!

  • Good Point Kathleen!
    Dont these guys have enough to do.
    Adding regulations will only skyrocket the cost of food for people that can least afford it.
    If people want non GMO foods they can find them in every supermarket and companies that label as such will increase sales.

  • Larry, with due respect the label is printed anyway, this is simply changing the printed label and is approximately zero cost when spread across millions of items. In pharma they will soon (2015)  require unique serialization codes on each product that will require packaging lines to be upgraded but even then the cost increase per item will be small. 

    If you disagree with what I have said please explain exactly what are the components that will cause the new labeling to “skyrocket costs”. I doubt you will have an answer!   

  • Robert, so you want to completely overturn food labeling legislation and instead of labeling what is in the product you want to label everything that is not in the product? Very smart! 🙂

    Yes people can say “Real sugar” or “GMO free” but this is marketing. We are asking for accurate labeling of what is in the product. Why is this so hard for you to understand? 

  • Jake

    GMO needs to be labeled on all foods. Nothing should be hidden from the consumers. GMO causes CANCER and other serious illnesses. Why is this not informed to the general public? USA is like a sneaky car salesman. TRANSPARENCY PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • mark howe

    Contact your representative and tell him to get on board. Hr 584 calls for labeling Gmo salmon. It is in committee, where it probably will die, unless enough people get on their representatives to join the battle.

  • AverageGuy

    USDA ORGANIC require only 70%, Quality International Organic sells a organic label often with no inspection or testing, non-GMO verified project allows .09% GMO. Michael R. Taylor is the Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When he was a Monsanto lobbyist he push to keep the cancer causing growth hormone eBGH added in meat and dairy from being disclosed. The FDA hides the fact that they allow GMO in Organic labeled foods up to 30% is allowed. Their website talks only about what is allowed in products labeled 100% organic but 100% label is rare. The FDA doesn’t disclose what is allowed in normal organic labels, which is 96% of organic labeled products. Many organic product have GMO in it. WE NEED GMO labeling laws!!!!!!

  • BRIT