The American Soybean Association (ASA), National Corn Growers Association and American Farm Bureau Federation quickly announced their individual support of new federal legislation introduced Wednesday to establish a federal voluntary labeling standard for foods made with genetically modified (GM) crops. Several other farm organizations have followed suit.
The Safe and accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 4432) is aimed at overriding bills in debate or recently passed in about two dozen states that would require foods possibly containing GM crops to be labeled as such and reinstates federal control over food labeling.
National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre, a farmer from Carmi, Ill., said, “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act provides certainty for both consumers and farmers alike by creating a unified, science-based approach to labeling and eliminating potential risks and costs posed by an expensive patchwork of labeling laws,”
“This bill is a commonsense, science-based approach to an issue we realize is close to the hearts and minds of so many consumers,” said Iowa farmer and ASA President Ray Gaesser. “Americans want to know that their food is safe, and the solutions proposed in this bill will ensure that they have that information.”
AFBF President Bob Stallman said, “The GMO labeling ballot initiatives and legislative efforts that many state lawmakers and voters are facing are geared toward making people wrongly fear what they’re eating and feeding their children. They undermine the public’s understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology in feeding a growing population—and keeping costs down. With the introduction of this legislation and the leadership of the bill’s sponsors, Farm Bureau looks forward to a national-level discussion that will affirm FDA’s role in assuring consumers about GMO safety and reduce the confusion that would result from a patchwork of state labeling initiatives.”
The ASA in its news release explained the bill’s content quite concisely. “The act would direct FDA to provide guidance for companies that wish to label their products for the presence or absence of GMOs; make mandatory an FDA safety review of all new GMO traits before they are brought to market and enable FDA to mandate labels on any product shown to pose a health, safety or nutrition risk; and directs FDA to define the term “natural” for use on food labels. Additionally, the bill would eliminate a large potential source of confusion among consumers by establishing FDA’s labeling guidance as the national standard and preventing states from enacting conflicting requirements.”
Gaesser said, “It will allow companies to voluntarily label foods as non-GMO and enable those consumers who wish to purchase non-GMO foods to do so. Importantly, however, it won't force consumers to pay more for food just because some interests want to require mandatory labeling of safe and healthy foods made with GMOs."
The ASA quoted an economic study that shows an average family of four would pay about $500 more per year for groceries under mandatory GMO labeling schemes being considered in some states.
The NCGA chimed in with its understanding and beliefs about the bill. “In setting out a federal labeling system, it reaffirms the FDA as the nation’s authority for the use and labeling of GMO food ingredients while providing consumers greater confidence by establishing a required FDA safety review process for all new GMO traits. Notably, the FDA would have the authority to mandate the labeling of any GMO food ingredients it determines would create a health, safety or nutrition issue.
“The legislation would also empower the FDA to provide greater consistency in the market by defining the term ‘natural’ for its use on food and beverage products. The clear definition of this commonly used term would offer consumers clarity about products allowing them to base choices on information verified instead of marketing claims.”
Each of the organizations praised the bipartisan sponsors of the House bill—Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.).
The champions of H.R. 4432 were identified as Reps. Pompeo and Butterfield. ASA President Gaesser said, “Congressmen Pompeo and Butterfield and each of the sponsors of this bill have taken a brave and progressive step. The conversation surrounding GMOs is one that has been crowded with misinformation and hyperbole on all sides, but at its core it must be about science.
“The Congressmen realize that my fellow farmers and I use these (biotechnology) tools—each of which represents a revolutionary and proven-safe scientific advance—to be more productive while consuming fewer resources. They are to be commended for pursuing a science-based step forward on GMOs, and we call on the Energy and Commerce Committee to move forward with hearings on the bill as quickly as possible.”