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Gabbard pushes for tougher GMO labeling laws

August 5, 2017

HONOLULU — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and other lawmakers are hoping to ensure genetically modified ingredient labeling standards are fair and transparent.

“Nine out of 10 Americans consistently report they want the right to know if their food is produced with genetic engineering, the same right held by consumers in 64 other countries,” Gabbard wrote in a letter about the labeling standards sent to Sonny Perdue, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In July 2016, Congress passed GMO labeling standards that some say are weak and create a confusing web of disclosure options, allowing companies to choose between on-package text, a USDA-regulated symbol, or an electronic or digital link, according to a relase from Gabbard’s office.

Gabbard strongly opposed the legislation because she said it undermines Hawaii and other states’ ability to mandate GMO labeling, exempts many common foods from labeling requirements, and creates unnecessary extra steps for consumers to access basic ingredient information.

The legislation also raised concerns by the FDA, as well as various environmental, food security, and consumer interest groups, the release said.

“As the USDA works to establish a mandatory, national disclosure standard for GMO foods, we write to express our strong belief that USDA needs to meet consumer expectations, be consistent with international standards and be inclusive of all Americans – including consumers without smartphones, rural residents and the elderly,” said the letter signed by 22 members of Congress. “We expect USDA’s mandatory GMO disclosure standard to apply to all GMO foods, including foods which contain ingredients like highly refined sugars and oils, as well as foods produced with new genetic engineering techniques.”

The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association supports a national standard for bioengineered food labeling and disclosure, according to HCIA executive director Bennette Misalucha.

“An inconsistent set of rules that changes from state to state creates confusion in the marketplace and would not benefit consumers,” Misalucha said. “We believe that this nationwide food labeling law will ensure consumers across the country receive consistent and reliable information. We have faith in the process, with many federal and state agencies working hard to ensure effective protocols are in place regarding food safety for consumers.”

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