Hawai’i is on the wrong track in trying to require state-level labeling of food products to indicate if any ingredients were derived from plants produced with genetic engineering, according to the state’s attorney general. The bill runs afoul of federal law and policy and would “very likely be found unconstitutional” if challenged in court, the opinion said.
“There is no basis in fact or in the federal misbranding laws to require what would amount to a GMO ‘warning’ label,” said an opinion approved by Attorney General David M. Louie. The bill has passed the House and is pending in the Senate. The legislature failed to state “any purpose at all” for the bill, which makes it almost impossible to defend in federal court, he warned. The opinion added that food labeling is basically preempted by the FDA, which specifically opposes mandatory GMO labeling. Precedent from other cases shows that the bill would likely fail in the courts, the opinion added.
“Any state effort (regardless of how well-intentioned) to require labeling that is inconsistent with federal law, particularly where the veracity and relevance of the information sought to be mandated remain a matter of contention at the federal level, will be met with great skepticism in federal court,” Louie warned. Read the letter here.