Group urges Congress to set national standards for GMOs.
A new coalition of 29 U.S. organizations is urging Congress to develop a federal set of standards to guide the labeling of food products made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Participants in the group, called the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF), hope their proactive steps will prevent the piecemeal development of individual state laws.
"We don’t believe a patchwork of state labeling initiatives and state laws would be in the best interest of consumers or farmers, and we feel it’s time to get behind a national labeling law," notes Martin Barbre, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).
Barbre says the coalition supports the development of a voluntary labeling law that would be administered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
"The FDA would establish federal standards for companies that want to voluntarily label their products for the presence or non-presence of GMO ingredients so consumers clearly understand their choices in the marketplace," Barbre explains. "Everyone would be operating under the same rules."
A Farm Journal survey of 1,408 farmers last June shows that 65% do not want mandatory labeling laws. Only 18% believe foods made from GMO crops should be labeled, while 17% of farmer respondents say they are unsure. The reason most frequently cited by farmers against labeling laws is concern that consumers will use the information, once it’s printed on product packaging, to avoid buying foods containing GMOs.
National consumer surveys conducted by various media groups, such as CBS News and The Washington Post, show that more than 90% of U.S. consumers want labeling laws enacted.
In 2013, at least 26 states proposed legislation that would require food products made from GMO crops to be labeled. Two of those states, Connecticut and Maine, have approved GMO labeling bills. In both cases, though, the bills cannot be signed into law until additional, contiguous states pass similar legislation.
A patchwork of state labeling laws would create marketing chaos for farmers and increased food prices for all consumers, according to Randy Gordon, president of the National Grain and Feed Association.
"... Different laws and requirements would devastate the efficiency of our nation’s food and animal feed production and marketing system, and dramatically increase costs to consumers," notes Gordon, in an association press release.
More importantly, NCGA’s Barbre says, a mandatory labeling process would not enhance food safety in any way.
Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association agrees. "Foods made with genetically modified ingredients are safe and have a number of important benefits for people and our planet," notes Bailey in a coalition-issued press release. "Our nation’s food safety and labeling laws should not be set by political campaigns or state and local legislatures, but by the FDA, the nation’s foremost food safety agency."
The coalition provided a statement during a media conference to announce its formation that such a federal GMO labeling solution would, in summary:
• Eliminate Confusion: Remove the confusion and uncertainty of a 50 state patchwork of GMO safety and labeling laws and affirm the FDA as the nation’s authority for the use and labeling of genetically modified food ingredients.
• Advance Food Safety: Require the FDA to conduct a safety review of all new GMO traits before they are introduced into commerce. FDA will be empowered to mandate the labeling of GMO food ingredients if the agency determines there is a health, safety or nutrition issue with an ingredient derived from a GMO.
• Inform Consumers: The FDA will establish federal standards for companies that want to voluntarily label their product for the absence-of or presence-of GMO food ingredients so that consumers clearly understand their choices in the marketplace.
• Provide Consistency: The FDA will define the term "natural" for its use on food and beverage products so that food and beverage companies and consumers have a consistent legal framework that will guide food labels and inform consumer choice.
More information about the coalition and its objectives is available at www.cfsaf.org.