Editor’s Note: All clinicians are required to research and identify an environmental issue that merits a legislative solution. As part of this exercise, they learn skills in lobbying and policy making. At the end of the semester each will participate in a simulation exercise “lobbying” a legislative chief of staff to gain support for their proposed legislation.
Proposal: To mandate the labeling of all foods produced, manufactured and sold throughout the United Sates containing genetically modified organisms – better known as GMOs. The best way to implement this course action would be to implement a single and very cohesive national standard, as opposed to a state-by-state approach as the latter is not sufficiently protective
Problem: The use of genetically modified crops and the safety of GMO ingredients has come under intense scrutiny, and many Americans have expressed a strong desire for the transparency and clarity that would come with clear labeling on foods. As the use of GMO crops expands so do questions about impacts that GMO foods may have on human health and the environment.
Opponents of GMO labeling however, contend that labeling is unnecessary and costly. In referencing Proposition 37 (2012), a failed California initiative requiring labeling of genetically modified foods, the opposition declared that GMO labeling would raise food prices, harming businesses and consumers. Opponents also argue that a labeling system already exists under the USDA Organic standard and say consumers also have many other avenues to access information via phone applications and online databases.
Solution: Congress should enact a uniform national standard for GMO labeling, enforced by the Food and Drug Administration. Both state and federal governments are coming under increasing pressure to give consumers an informed choice. As consumers advocate for the “right to know,” GMO labeling is gaining increased attention.
Although the United States does not demand GMO labeling, many other nations do, including major U.S. trading partners. Vermont is the only U.S. state that has passed a law requiring GMO labeling, with Connecticut and Maine requiring labeling only if other states follow the same course of action. Vermont could now face possible lawsuits, with the federal government seeking a potential halt to the bill before it goes into effect next year.
Nonetheless, consumers who advocate for GMO labeling argue that they have the fundamental right to choose. President John F. Kennedy, in a speech to Congress in 1962, declared that the federal government is responsible for consumers’ rights, including the right to safety, the right to be informed, and the right to choose.