An Overview of Genetic Engineering Regulations: Washington State and Around the Country
Advocacy efforts around the country have sparked action on county-, state-, and federal-level regulations of genetically engineered (GE) food. So far in 2014, 35 bills have been introduced in 20 states.
Washington State came close to mandating the labeling of GE food last year with Initiative 522. After organizers collected over 200,000 signatures, I-522 went to the state legislature, which voted to put the issue on the ballot. The initiative ultimately received 48.91% of the vote and did not pass.
Following the failure of I-522, another measure concerning genetically engineered foods has surfaced. House Bill 2143 targets fish raised in natural freshwater and lakes. While the production of GE fish is already banned from Washington marine waters via WAC 220-76-100, this bill would expand the ban to include freshwater fish as well. The FDA has not approved GE fish for human consumption, but companies producing GE fish outside of the US are seeking approval.
San Juan County passed an initiative in November 2012, becoming the only county in Washington to ban the cultivation of all GE crops. The initiative makes it unlawful to “propagate, cultivate, raise or grow plants, animals and other organisms which have been genetically modified” in San Juan County. This initiative also implements enforcement provisions that include a potential gross misdemeanor.
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently has regulatory jurisdiction over all GE food and food products, FDA does not mandate GE labeling. FDA currently supports voluntary GE labeling.
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certification prohibits the use of GE seeds or ingredients in certified products.
In April, 2013, H.R. 1699, the “Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act”, was introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Peter DeFazio. H.R.4432, nicknamed the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act,” introduced April 2014, would block states from passing legislation to require GE labeling and permit products with GE ingredients be labeled as “natural”. This bill would be a step backwards for the thirty states which have introduced GE-labeling related bills and initiatives. Neither bill is expected to reach a vote before the end of this congressional session.
State-level GE Labeling Action in 2014
|State||Senate bill||House bill||Initiative||Introduced||Status||What does it do?|
|Alaska||128||215||-||January, 2014||session ended||labels GE food, prohibits “natural” on labels of GE food|
|Arizona||-||-||Genetically Modified Organism Labeling Initiative||n/a||did not make the ballot||Labels GE food|
|California||1381||-||-||February, 2014||session ended||Labels GE food and ingredients|
|Colorado||-||-||48||n/a||on the ballot in November||Labels GE food, foods treated with GE material, animals eating GE food|
|Florida||558||1||-||December, 2013 (SB), August, 2013 (I)||session ended||Label GE food with some exceptions|
|Hawaii||2521||-||-||January, 2014||session ended||Labels GE food, seeds, and ingredients|
|Illinois||1666||3085||-||February, 213||session ended||Labels GE food, excludes GE ingredients|
|Indiana||-||1196||-||January, 2013||session ended||Labels GE food, prohibits “natural” on GE food labels|
|Iowa||194||463||-||March, 2013||session ended||Labels GE food|
|Kentucky||-||441||-||February, 2014||session ended||Labels GE foods , prohibits any reference to “natural” in GE labelling|
|Maryland||1991||778||-||February, 2014||session ended||Labels GE food, shelves, and containers|
|Massachusetts||-||3996||-||March, 2014||pending||Labels GE food|
|Minnesota||821||-||-||February, 2013||pending||Labels GE food and seeds|
|Missouri||533||-||-||January, 2014||pending||Labels GE meat and fish|
|Nevada||-||AB 330||-||March, 2013||session ended||Labels GE food conspicuously|
|New Hampshire||-||411||-||February, 2014||pending||Labels GE food|
|New Jersey||91||A1359||-||January, 2014||pending||Labels GE food|
|New Mexico||18||-||-||January, 2013||session ended||Labels GE food|
|New York||-||3525||-||January, 2014||pending||Labels GE food|
|Oklahoma||-||2942||-||February, 2014||session ended||Labels GE food|
|Oregon||863||-||92||October, 2013||passed||Prevents county-level food regulation|
|pending||Labels GE food|
|Pennsylvania||1770||-||October, 2013||pending||Labels GE food and seeds|
|Rhode Island||7042||-||January, 2014||session ended||Labels GE food and redefining “natural”|
|Tennessee||1878||-||-||January, 2014||session ended||Labels GE food|
|Utah||-||205||-||February, 2014||session ended||Initiates multistate discussion of GE labelling agreements|
|Washington||-||2143||-||January, 2014||session ended||Labels GE fish|