Legislation introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts has met with support from farm commodity organizations that cite the proposal as a workable solution to give the American consumer information on what’s in the food they eat while preventing a patchwork of mandatory, conflicting and costly regulations by state legislatures.
Timing is important since a GMO-labeling law is set to go into effect in July. Roberts’ proposal would preempt state GMO food and seed labeling efforts and require USDA to set a standard for voluntary on-package disclosures.
If Roberts’ bill becomes law, USDA would establish a set of standards within two years for labeling foods that contain or may contain bioengineering. USDA also would conduct an outreach and education campaign on the safety of bioengineered food.
For the latest on southwest agriculture, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.
“The introduction of Roberts’s proposal is an important first step to restoring sanity to America’s food labeling laws,” says National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling, a farmer from Maryland. “GMOs are perfectly safe and America’s farmers rely on this proven technology to protect our crops from insects, weeds and drought. Important food safety and labeling decisions should be made by the scientists and qualified policymakers at the FDA, not political activists and campaigns. Yet, despite the scientific evidence, states such as Vermont are quickly moving toward costly, confusing mandatory labeling legislation. It is imperative that the Senate take up this issue quickly to avoid a situation in which all American consumers pay a high price and gain little actual information.”
“We’ve heard repeatedly that Americans want more information on what’s in their food, and we are invested in providing that information to them. Chairman Roberts’ bill is one that moves the food production industry in a direction of greater transparency, while at the same time protecting farmers’ ability to use what science has repeatedly proven to be a safe and sustainable technology,” said American Soybean Association President Richard Wilkins, a farmer from Greenwood, Del.
The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) also voiced support for “a commonsense food-labeling proposal to bring consistency and transparency to the marketplace.
“Time is running out for Congress to take action to prevent a patchwork of state food-labeling laws from being enacted,” said ASTA President & CEO Andrew LaVigne. “We applaud Chairman Roberts for putting forth a practical, national solution, and we urge the Senate to pass the proposal as soon as possible.”
Safe food is goal
“As growers, our primary concern is the ability to continue to produce food in the quantity and of the quality that American consumers demand, and we are acutely aware of consumers’ desire for us to reduce our impact on the environment in the process,” added Wilkins. “This is the dual promise of bioengineering. It has been proven safe repeatedly for nearly 20 years, and we can’t stand by while a small subset of activists willfully misinterprets and misrepresents bioengineering to advance their agenda.”
Ag industry organizations point out that numerous studies show that the associated costs with Vermont’s GMO-labeling law and a subsequent patchwork of state laws will cost American families hundreds of dollars more in groceries each year – with low-income Americans being hit the hardest.
The bill now goes through a markup by the Senate Committee on Agriculture.
For more information on the need for a federal labeling standard, visit the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, at www.CFSAF.org.