The use of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and whether food labels should note their presence in products, has become a center of a heated debate among consumers, the food industry and lawmakers.
“This is a controversial topic that has big implications for the food system,” said Harrison Pittman, director of the National Agricultural Law Center, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Subject to certain exceptions, federal law does not require that GMO crops such as corn and soybeans be segregated as those commodities travel to market nor does it require the labeling of foods that contain GMO ingredients. “Many disagree with this approach and have sought to enact state laws through either the legislative process or by ballot initiative that require a certain level of labeling of GMO food products,” said Pittman.
Connecticut, Maine and Vermont each have laws requiring GMO labeling. The laws in Maine and Connecticut have provisions that state they can’t be implemented unless other states approve similar laws. Vermont’s labeling law is slated to go into effect in 2016. In California and Hawaii, Humboldt and Maui counties, respectively, have banned cultivation of GMOs.
Last week, voters in Colorado and Oregon rejected ballot measures that would’ve required food products containing GMOs to be labeled accordingly.
To help understand the issues involved, the Agricultural and Food Law Consortium will be offering a webinar from 2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. EST on Nov. 19 titled, “Mandatory GMO Labeling Laws: Overview and Status of Current Legal Issues.” “As with all of our work, the webinar will be presented in an objective and unbiased manner,” Pittman said.
The webinar is being presented by Ross Pifer, director of the Agricultural Law Resource Reference Center at Penn State Law, one of the members of the consortium. Details about the webinar, including sign-on instructions, are available on the National Agricultural Law Center website at http://nationalaglawcenter.org/consortium/gmolabelingwebinar/.
The webinar is free of charge and open to anyone interested. The program is offered by the Agricultural and Food Law Consortium, a national, multi-institutional collaboration designed to enhance and expand the development and delivery of authoritative, timely, and objective agricultural and food law research and information. (See: http://uaex.edu/media-resources/news/september2014/09-26-2014-Ark-AgFood-Law-Consortium.aspx)
“The program will provide background to help the listener frame the discussion as well as an update of the current status of those proposals,” Pittman said.
In addition, the program will address:
- The historical development of GMO labeling debate;
- A review the states’ laws that have been enacted;
- The status of litigation involving the Vermont GMO labeling law;
- Applicable November 2014 ballot measures voters considered on election day; and
- Federal legislation.
To learn more, visit http://nationalaglawcenter.org/consortium/gmolabelingwebinar/.