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Federal and State Governments Should Not Require Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food

State or federal mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food is not a solution to a real policy problem. Regrettably, the Vermont law is putting pressure on some Members of Congress to take action, and out of desperation, they could pass something even worse than what was proposed in the failed Senate bill.

Whether it is appropriate for Congress merely to preempt states and block Vermont’s law, as the House proposed, involves the complicated question of federal preemption. There is no magic answer. There is a strong preemption argument, though, for the House approach. Its solution would address any patchwork of state laws and ensure that governments, whether state or federal, are not forcing companies to mislead consumers based on flawed science. In addition, the federal government would be creating less, not more, government by prohibiting labeling requirements; it would be promoting freedom by not compelling misleading speech instead of limiting speech.

If Congress, however, preempted states while creating its own federal mandatory standard, such a law would address the patchwork problem but not the other problems associated with mandatory labeling. Congress would just be trading the problems of state mandatory labeling for the problems of federal mandatory labeling.

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