Food industry groups are praising this week’s introduction of a national food labeling bill, known as The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The bill, introduced by U.S. Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) and G.K. Butterfield (D-North Carolina), establishes a federal standard for food and beverage products made with genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs. It preempts state-level efforts to enact mandatory GMO labeling by empowering the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to create a uniform, national labeling program. The proposed bill requires that all new products to market be first subjected to an FDA review and labeled as containing GMO ingredients only in instances where FDA can demonstrate some risk.
Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said, “No matter where they live or shop, all Americans deserve to have access to consistent, understandable information about the food they are eating, and this federal legislation would eliminate consumer uncertainty created by a state-by-state patchwork of labeling laws, advance food safety, inform consumers and provide consistency in labeling.
“The entire purpose of food labeling is to provide consumers throughout our nation with clear and consistent information. Congress must pass a bipartisan bill this year to ensure Americans continue to have access to consistent FDA-approved and science-based standards for food labeling.
“It’s important to know that this technology has been around for the past 20 years and, today, 70-80 percent of the foods we eat in the United States contain ingredients that have been genetically modified.
“The overwhelming scientific consensus is that GMO ingredients are as safe as any other food. The Food and Drug Administration and major scientific and health organizations such as the American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences and World Health Organization all have found GMOs are safe for humans and positive for the environment. More than 2,000 studies show a clear consensus among the world’s leading scientific organizations that GMO ingredients are safe.
“A single federal labeling standard for non-GMO and GMOs that is based on science would ensure that America’s farmers and food manufacturers work under a uniform standard across all 50 states and that consumers receive uniform, consistent information on GMOs. The alternative—a patchwork of state and local food laws across the country with different labeling mandates and requirements—will create confusion, cause significant new costs for Americans and lead to critical problems for our nation’s grocery supply chain.
“A federal law is needed that keeps the authority to set safe, reasonable and national labeling requirements regarding GMOs with U.S. government agencies that have decades of scientific and regulatory expertise in this area. The Grocery Manufacturers Association strongly supports this legislation, and urges the House and Senate to adopt this national standard for science-based food labeling.”
The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) also is touting the legislation.
“AFFI commends Reps. Pompeo and Butterfield for leading efforts to create a federal program for the labeling of foods containing genetically enhanced ingredients,” said AFFI President and CEO Kraig R. Naasz. “AFFI supports a responsible and effective federal labeling program that prevents the creation of a complicated patchwork of state-based labeling rules that would increase, rather than reduce, consumer confusion and food prices.
“A voluntary program, administered by FDA, to evaluate food labels that claim the presence, or absence, of genetically-enhanced ingredients will bolster consumer confidence, while giving frozen food and beverage makers the certainty they need to meet the needs of America’s consumers.”
Other groups that are part of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food are applauding the bill, including the International Dairy Foods Association, American Soybean Association and the Snack Food Association (SFA).
SFA President and CEO Tom Dempsey was among those who testified this week before the House Agriculture Committee on the costs and impacts of mandatory biotechnology labeling laws. He, along with SFA member companies—represented by Lynn Clarkson, president of Clarkson Grain Co. of Cerro Gordo, Illinois, and Chris Policinski, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes of Arden Hills—discussed those implications a day before the bill was introduced.