With the advancements of technology expanding with time, the use of bioengineering in producing our food is no surprise. According to the Center for Food Safety, “92% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered, as are 94% of soybeans and 94% of cotton”, making it inevitable for consumers to avoid eating a product that contains altered DNA (“About Genetically Engineered Food”). Although bioengineering is dominant within our major crops, the knowledge that they are modified goes unnoticed by consumers as one may find a “non-GMO label” yet not its opposite. Because of this, a main concern that consumers are obstructed from fully having “the right-to-know’ of food that may inversely affect their health, had led to Public Law 114-216.
Before the NBDFS was enacted at a federal level, a need for labeling disclosure for GMOs had to be evident before it could manifest into more. In 2013, Connecticut was the first state to pass their own requirement for bioengineered ingredients to be labeled. The limitation to their state law, however, is it would only to go in effect if bordering states provided a similar law. Subsequently, a year later Maine would follow Connecticut’s footsteps, and both would fail in expecting their neighboring states to comply. Realizing that this was an inoperative attempt to instigate transparency, in 2014, Vermont had created and passed their own stricter GMO labeling law and confined it to its own boundaries unlike the first two. Their state law was optimistically projected to be imposed in 2016, but the House passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 that had forestalled Vermont and prohibited mandatory GMO labeling to have it remain being voluntary (Ellixson & Suri). This marked the NBDFS precedent to impeding the states’ amount of choice within mandatory GMO labeling.
With the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 placed, lobbying expenses to prevent GMO labeling reached $100 million dollars. Shown in the graph below, the hundreds of millions of dollars poured in by biotech companies may correlate to the new bill arousing a prevalent anxiety within them towards the probability of GMO labeling (Coleman). On the other hand, organic interest groups such as Just-Label-It criticized it, referring to it as the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act” (Detisch). Such negative feedback would then lead to a national conversation and the issue would fall into the hands of Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas and Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Both involved in the Senate Agriculture Committee, were committed to assemble a compromise deal between informing consumers and giving biotech manufacturers lenient obligations. Once crafted, their GMO bill would go through thirty hours of debate—winning a majority vote, and Public Law 114-216 was signed in July 29, 2016 by President Obama (Addady). As the law was mainly placed in order to preempt states taking charge, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was designated two years of enactment to create a mandatory standard—meaning revisions to the initial plan of enforcement could be considered.
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