Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Urges Tougher GMO Labeling

Jul 9, 2018
Press Release

“People Have a Right to Know What’s in Their Food”

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan announced today he has filed a formal objection letter with the U.S. Agriculture Department, calling its food labeling plan for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) "grossly inadequate." 

Buchanan said the department should “go back to the drawing board” and come up with a more consumer-friendly standard. “Regardless of whether you think GMOs are safe or not, people have a right to know what's in their food,” he said.

Buchanan’s letter said the proposed rule is inadequate because it allows food manufacturers to skirt transparency by putting a website or a phone number on the food product for consumers to call if they want to learn whether a food contains a GMO. Another option under the rule would allow a manufacturer to imprint a QR code, similar to a barcode, that consumers could scan using a smartphone.

Buchanan said he hoped his letter would prompt the Agriculture Department to craft a tougher labeling standard that consumers would find useful. Now that the public comment period has closed, the department is expected to issue a final rule later this year.

“Food labeling needs to be simple and clear,” Buchanan said. “QR codes do not meet that definition. What senior citizen or mother shopping with her children will be able to stop and call a company or go to a website to check the ingredients of each product they would like to buy? If you’re going to have a labeling standard, make it easy to understand.”

Perhaps even more troubling is the largely unanswered question of which foods would be considered genetically modified. Under one proposed set of regulations, the USDA could exempt highly refined sugars and oils, such as those made from genetically modified corn and soybeans, which consumer groups have warned would effectively exempt as much as 70 percent of products from GMO labeling. 

“Consumers have a right to get all the information they need to make decisions about the food they buy,” Buchanan said.

In 2015, Buchanan was one of only 12 Republicans to oppose legislation in the U.S. House referred to as the “DARK Act" (Deny Americans the Right to Know) because it contained too many loopholes to transparent labeling of GMOs.

See letter below:

Dear Secretary Perdue,

I am writing to express my strong opposition to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s grossly inadequate proposal for labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

According to the USDA, this proposed rule will “provide a uniform way to offer meaningful disclosure for consumers who want more information about their food.” However, by providing manufacturers with such broad discretion in disclosing GMO ingredients, consumers may not get the information they need to make informed decisions.

As drafted, this proposal will allow food manufactures to skirt transparency by putting a website or a phone number on the food product for consumers to call if they want to learn whether a food contains a GMO. Another option allowed under the rule would allow a manufacturer to imprint a QR code, similar to a bar code, that consumers could scan using a smartphone.

Food labeling needs to be simple and clear. QR codes do not meet that definition. What senior citizen or mother shopping with her children will be able to stop and call a company or go to a website to check the ingredients of each product they would like to buy? If you’re going to have a labeling standard, make it easy to understand.

I am also concerned by the largely unanswered question of which foods would be considered genetically modified. Under one proposed set of regulations, the USDA could exempt highly refined sugars and oils, such as those made from genetically modified corn and soybeans, which some have warned would effectively exempt as much as 70 percent of products from GMO labeling.

As you work to issue a final rule later this year, I would urge you to go back to the drawing board and come up with a more consumer-friendly standard. Regardless of whether you think GMOs are safe or not, people have a right to know what they’re eating.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

 

Vern Buchanan

Member of Congress