No surprise here: junk food lobby wants federal ban on GMO labels

pro-GMO labeling
CC BY 2.0 Rosalee Yagihara

Major food conglomerates want to stamp out state-by-state efforts to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients with federal legislation. Maine and Connecticut have passed preliminary labeling laws, while California and Washington state have rejected such laws.

Last year, the anti-labeling lobby spent $55 million fighting the California bill. This year, they spent $22 million in Washington State.

So, it's not surprising that big agricultural and big food manufactures would want to bypass state laws and preemptively stop labeling efforts with a bill at the federal level. Not only are the campaigns costly, they generated a good deal of bad press when several companies were found to be laundering donations through the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Michele R. Simon, a public health lawyer and food writer, obtained a set of documents by public records requests that show how the Grocery Manufacturers Association is pushing Washington D.C. to preemptively stop the state labeling issue.

The documents, filed in Washington state, say that the Association wants "federal pre-emption with no mandatory label" to avoid "an endless cycle of expensive campaign efforts.” As of October 7, this "Defense of Brand" campaign has raised $13 million and spend $8 million on expenses like federal legislative consultancy, communication support and legislative drafting.

Simon writes that preemptive measures are intended to help standardize regulation across state lines, but the Grocery Manufacturers Association is perverting this purpose by seeking to avoid any regulation:

"The details are even worse than I thought and give new meaning to the word chutzpah. I had predicted a federal compromise, where industry would agree to a weak form of labeling in exchange for stripping state authority. But what industry wants instead is to stop state laws to require labeling, while not giving up anything in return."