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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Proposed law could require ‘genetic engineering’ food labeling

By Tara Duggan, Thursday, March 3, 2016

Newly proposed legislation would require food manufacturers to disclose the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the Nutrition Facts panel.

The national fight over the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms took a new turn on Wednesday, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; and Jon Tester, D-Mont., to introduce legislation that would require national labeling of GMO ingredients.

Called the Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act, it is an alternate to legislation approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday that would prevent states from passing mandatory GMO labeling laws like one due to take effect in Vermont on July 1. That Senate bill, spearheaded by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and called the Safe Accurate Food Act, or Safe, has met resistance from environmental groups and other opponents, including Sen. Barbara Boxer, who have dubbed it the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or Dark, Act.

Merkley’s legislation would require manufacturers to disclose the presence of genetically engineered ingredients on the nutrition facts panel, though food companies would have four ways to include that information, such as adding a statement at the end of the ingredients list that the product was “produced with genetic engineering.”

“I strongly believe consumers have a right to know what they’re eating — that’s why I support labeling genetically modified foods,” said Senator Feinstein in a statement.

“The bill we introduced this week achieves the goal of providing consumers with more information about the food they eat while providing businesses with flexibility in how they meet the requirement.”

Campbell Soup Co., which has said it will roll out voluntary GMO labeling of its products, tweeted Wednesday: “We applaud @SenJeffMerkley on intro of #GMO nat’l labeling bill. Provides clear & consistent info consumers seek.”

Tara Duggan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: tduggan@sfchronicle.com.

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