The House has passed and now the Senate is contemplating adoption of the NATIONAL UNIFORMITY FOR FOOD ACT. The legislation is designed to provide national uniformity in regulating the labeling and safety standards for food. It is supported by most Republicans and of course, the Grocers Association of America:
Consumers across the country deserve consistent information. Virtually every other piece of information regarding packaged food is uniform at the national level, including allergen labeling, nutrition information and pesticide tolerances.
The legislation is opposed by most progressive and consumer organizations. Consumers Union says:
Under the guise of national "uniformity," this bill would eliminate critical state laws that protect consumer health while leaving in place an inadequate federal system based on the lowest common denominator of protection.
As drafted, the bill would wipe out state food safety laws and regulations that are not "identical" to federal law - even in areas where the federal government has not acted. The bill could directly harm consumers by increasing their exposure to food-borne illnesses, undermining the authority of state food safety officers, and overturning state food labeling laws.
The House of Representatives has passed a controversial "national food uniformity" labeling law that would take away local government and states' power to require food safety food labels such as those required in California and other states on foods or beverages that are likely to cause cancer, birth defects, allergic reactions, or mercury poisoning. This bill would also prevent citizens in local municipalities and states from passing laws requiring that genetically engineered foods and ingredients such as Monsanto's recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) be labeled
But WaxingAmerica is troubled by the nature of the opposition. Patt Morrison in the Los Angeles Times defines the nature of the problem:
Uniformity for food. It sounds so wonderfully orderly, doesn't it? But the true moving force behind uniformity is un-informity. Nationalizing food standards means gutting state codes that tell you more about what you eat than the feds require...
California can't secede and become Bear Flag Republic 2.0 — I've already checked into it. But California could lead the charge in a new states' rights campaign among the many other states that would find their own laws kneecapped by the shamelessly named Food Uniformity Act.
Are you with me? Everybody sing:
Oh, I wish I was in the land of non-genetically modified cotton,
Cuz fed'ral laws, they are so rotten …
And there is the rub. Progressives have always championed federal action ahead of state's rights. After all it was the feds that brought us consumer safety in the muckraking days of Californian Upton Sinclair, the trust busting legislation from the Progressive Era, the Civil Rights and the clean air and water legislation of the 1960s.
But now that the Republicans have control of the Congress and the White House, Democrats are fearful of federal preemption for which they clearly argued so eloquently forty years ago.
If and when they get control, this means Democrats will advocate federal law that raises the minimum wage, new rounds of consumer and environmental legislation to end pollution and global warming, and a national health insurance plan that preempts state law.
The problem is not that federal law trumps state law under the Commerce Clause; the problem is a political one. There is a solution. Win some elections rather than adopt a reactionary nineteenth century slogan that inhibits a progressive national agenda.