WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2014— In an attempt to prevent a patchwork of state genetically modified (“GMO”) food labeling rules, a coalition of agricultural, food manufacturer and consumer groups announced today it will advocate for a national labeling law.
Pam Bailey, CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), said the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food is promoting a federal labeling law that would require a label on foods containing GMO ingredients— those produced through biotechnology— only if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines there is a health or safety risk. This way, food companies would be able to place voluntary place labels on their products, but could avoid mandatory state labeling laws.
“All available science shows GMOs are safe,” Bailey noted, adding that current FDA policy indicates that a mandatory GMO label is misleading to consumers. FDA currently only mandates labels for ingredients that pose a health or safety risk to consumers, and it does not consider GMO ingredients to fall within that category.
High-profile state ballot initiatives in California and Washington failed, but anti-GMO food and consumer groups are continuing to push for laws in other states. Maine and Connecticut enacted labeling laws for GMO foods, but they cannot be enforced until more states in the region pass similar laws.
Cathleen Enright, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), said the coalition wants to provide “explicit FDA authority to require a label of any GMO ingredient that raises a safety or health issue.”
Additionally, the coalition is supporting a federally mandated review—instead of the current voluntary method— of new biotechnology traits before they are introduced in the marketplace.
“Biotechnology developers stand strongly behind the safety of our products, but we also recognize that consumers have questions,” Enright said.
She also noted that a mandatory FDA review would add another layer to the regulatory process.
“We would never advocate for longer regulatory reviews,” she noted. “But the priority for us is ensuring that consumers have confidence in the food supply.”
President of the American Soybean Association Ray Gaesser said soybean farmers support the coalition because state ballot initiatives for GMO labels pose a threat to farmers’ costs as well as consumer costs. He noted that 92 percent of U.S. soybeans are produced through biotechnology.
Different labeling laws in different states would create “a messy path of regulations…and extra burdens on the supply chain” as well as increased costs of 15-30 percent, he said.
Chuck Connor, CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC), said the campaigns for state GMO labeling laws “really compelled us and the other organizations to finally step forward and say enough is enough.”
Additionally, President of the National Corn Growers Association Martin Barbre said a national law would also ensure that FDA retains the authority to determine the safety of the food supply.
GMA’s Bailey said the coalition will advocate for legislation that fits their requirements on Capitol Hill.
“We determined that now is time to stand together as trading partners,” she said. “We’re stronger together than individually.”
The coalition, which launched today, includes the following groups:
1. AACC International/ American Phytopathological Society
2. American Bakers Association
3. American Beverage Association
4. American Farm Bureau Federation
5. American Feed Industry Association
6. American Frozen Food Institute
7. American Seed Trade Association
8. American Soybean Association
9. American Sugarbeet Growers Association
10. Biotechnology Industry Organization
11. Corn Refiners Association
12. Council for Responsible Nutrition
13. Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association
14. Global Cold Chain Alliance
15. International Dairy Foods Association
16. National Association of Manufacturers
17. National Association of Wheat Growers
18. National Confectioners Association
19. National Corn Growers Association
20. National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
21. National Grain & Feed Association
22. National Fisheries Institute
23. National Oilseed Processors Association
24. National Restaurant Association
25. National Turkey Federation
26. North American Millers Association
27. Snack Food Association
28. U.S. Beet Sugar Association
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