Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Just in from Washington

New bill furthers national conversation on GMO labeling

Washington—Farmers and ranchers welcomed the introduction today of the bipartisan Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which will clarify the FDA as the nation’s foremost authority on food safety and create a voluntary labeling program run by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, the same agency that administers the USDA Organic Program.

The legislation will provide a federal solution to protect consumers from a confusing patchwork of 50-state GMO labeling policies, and the misinformation and high food costs that would come with them.

“State-led mandatory food labeling initiatives mislead consumers about the safety of GM foods, even though there is no credible evidence linking a food-safety or health risk to the consumption of GM foods,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in a statement. “These state labeling initiatives mask the benefits of biotechnology in food production and can lead to decreased food supplies. Creating a national labeling standard will give consumers the information they need while avoiding the unnecessary confusion and added cost of a patchwork of state laws.”

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, despite the fact that every credible U.S. and international food safety authority that has studied GMO crops has found that they are safe and that there are no health effects associated with their use.

In addition, much of the activity at the state level undermines the public’s understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology. GMO crops use less water and pesticides, boost farm yields by reducing damage and damage-control costs and are key to feeding a growing world population of 7 billion people.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act protects consumers on two fronts. First, it requires FDA to conduct a safety review of all new GMO traits well before they’re available on supermarket shelves and empowers the agency to mandate the labeling of GMO food ingredients if the agency determines there is a health, safety or nutrition issue with a new GMO technology.

Second, it will ensure farmers and ranchers have access to the technology they need to provide consumers with the variety of food options and price points they expect, and need. This legislation will ensure food safety is the leading driver of a national labeling policy, while maintaining the affordability of the U.S. food supply.

The bill will not prevent companies from voluntarily labeling their products for the absence or presence of GMO ingredients, but would instead direct USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to create a voluntary labeling program.

In his statement, Stallman noted farmers’ and ranchers’ appreciation for the bipartisan leadership of the bills’ sponsors, Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).
“Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, but they shouldn’t be misinformed about what’s safe, or forced to pay higher prices unnecessarily. Thanks to innovation, farmers and ranchers have new and improved methods to increase their efficiency while preserving farm land for generations to come. Farmers benefit from choice and so should consumers,” Stallman said.

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