Genetic Engineering Policy
Beyond Pesticides tracks Federal and State level legislation that impacts the growth and consumption of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Despite some setbacks, several key victories, especially at the state level, as well as many active state-level efforts demonstrate the continuing popularity and passion surrounding the GE disclosure and limitation movement.
- Federal - On April 24, 2013, Senator Barbra Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Peter Defazio (D-OR) introduced companion legislation that would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “clearly label” allGE whole and processed foods, including fish and other seafood. The bills, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, H.R. 1699 and S. 809, have 22 cosponsors in the House and 10 in the Senate.
- Vermont - Currently the Vermont Senate Judicial Committee is reviewing H.112, “An Act Relating To The Labeling Of Food Produced With Genetic Engineering.” The Act was passed by the Vermont House of Representatives in May of 2013 and the bill currently contains no trigger clauses like those found in the Connecticut and Maine legislation. This would mean if this act is signed into law Vermont will be the first state to require GE labeling.
- Maryland - State Senator Karen Montgomery in Maryland has introduced Senate Bill 0778, along with companion legislation House Bill 1191, which would require manufacturers to label food that contains GE ingredients. Currently, both have been referred to legislative committees. For more information read Beyond Pesticides' testimony before the state senate, visit Need to Know Maryland’s website, and sign their petition to have GE crops labeled in Maryland here.
Recent State Actions
- Connecticut - On December 11, 2013, Governor Malloy of Connecticut signed house Bill 6527 –An Act Concerning Genetically-Engineered Food which requires producers to label genetically engineered food in Connecticut. The labeling requirement, however, will not actually go into effect until similar legislation is passed by other states in the New England region (including one state bordering Connecticut) with an aggregate population of 20 million.
- Maine - In Maine, LD718, “An act to protect Maine food consumers’ right to know about genetically engineered food and seed stock” was signed into law Governor Paul LePage on January 8, 2014. Like Connecticut’s newly passed law, Maine’s GE bill contains a “trigger” clause and will only go into effect in five contiguous states, including the neighboring state of New Hampshire, approves a similar measure.
- Hawaii - On November 16, 2013, the Hawaiian community of Kauai enacted a law to force public disclosure of large scale production of experimental GE organisms and pesticide use. Using the authority vested in local political subdivisions by the state’s constitution, the law seeks to “establish provisions to inform the public, and protect the public from any direct, indirect, or cumulative negative impacts on the health and the natural environment of the people and place of the County of Kaua‘i, by governing the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms.” The Kauai Council, with an outpouring of community support, voted 5-2 to override the Mayor’s veto of Bill 2491. On December 5, 2013, Hawaii County otherwise known as “the Big Island”, Mayor Billy Kenoi signed into law a bill Bill 113, bans new open growing of GE crops in Hawaii County.
- California - Proposition 37, which would have required the labeling of GE ingredients, was narrowly defeated in November 2012 by a margin of 2.8 percent. With poll numbers indicating that most Californians supported the initiative until the beginning of October, it was an expensive “win” for opponents of the proposition who were shown to spend close to $1 million dollars a day in the month leading up to the vote. In the end, opponents of the proposition outspent supporters 5:1, $46 million to $9 million.
- Washington - Washington State attempts to pass ballot measure I-522, requiring GE ingredients to be labeled in food, were defeated by a GE-industry spending spree—opponents of the measure outspent supporters 3 to 1 ($22 million to $7.8 million). Similar to California, voters narrowly rejected this ballot initiative by 2 percent.