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Federal GMO Labeling Bill Goes To Senate

A bill that would implement a federal uniform labeling standard for foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and also GMO-free foods, has been introduced to the Senate—and much of the food industry is pleased.

In prepared statements, the National Grocers Association (NGA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) applauded the legislation spearheaded by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

NGA President and CEO Peter J. Larkin said, “Independent supermarket operators interact with shoppers on a daily basis and understand that they share a bond of trust with their customers to provide a variety of safe and quality food choices. NGA and its members believe consumers should have clear and consistent information to make informed buying decisions, which is why NGA supports a uniform and voluntary standard, regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to ensure that GMO labeling of food products is consistent and transparent to consumers nationwide. We applaud Chairman Roberts for his efforts to implement a federal legislative solution.”

FMI’s SVP of government and public affairs, Jennifer Hatcher, added, “We are very pleased that Chairman Roberts has scheduled a markup on legislation that meets an urgent need to avoid the inevitable chaos the food industry faces if left without a federal government-created standard definition that eliminates multiple state approaches. Without immediate action, costs in the supply chain will escalate rapidly and once the resources are expended, consumer costs will inevitably rise.
“We look forward to a quick legislative resolution to this issue in the United States Senate.”

The Senate panel is scheduled to vote on the bill at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 25.

The proposed bill would establish a national voluntary GMO labeling standard to be developed by USDA within two years of the bill’s enactment. The bill also would prohibit any state from setting separate GMO labeling requirements and also includes an educational component that will inform consumers about the safety and accessibility of information on agricultural biotechnology.

Vermont is set to require its own set of labels beginning in July. The proposed Senate bill would block that law and create new voluntary labels for companies that want to use them on food packages that contain GMOs.

Other industry groups, including the Snack Food AssociationInternational Dairy Foods Association, the American Soybean Association and the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, also are praising the introduction of the bill.

However, some groups remain opposed, referring to the bill as the “DARK Act.”

Friends of the Earth, for example, urges the Senate to reject the legislation.

The group’s food and technology program director, Lisa Archer, said, “Friends of the Earth strongly supports mandatory GMO labeling and urges the Senate to reject the DARK Act. This bill is a desperate attempt by the junk food and chemical industries to keep Americans in the dark about what we feed our families. Ninety-three percent of Americans want GMO labeling and this effort to try and stop the consumer demand for transparency that has shaken Big Food to its core will ultimately fail. Any member of Congress that fails to see the writing on the wall and chooses to support this antiquated and undemocratic bill will find that they are on the wrong side of history.”

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Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
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