Farm Groups, Food Industry Hail Historic Food Labeling Law
October 17, 2016
Written By Adam Buckallew
On July 29, President Barack Obama signed a bill that puts in place federal standards for the labeling of products made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The new law will require most food products to carry a text label, symbol, 1-800 number, website or scannable smartphone code indicating whether they contain GMOs.
The legislation is a victory for food and agricultural organizations that had been fervently lobbying Congress to pre-empt a Vermont state law that required food containing GMO ingredients to state they were “produced with genetic engineering” on packaging beginning July 1.
The bill eliminates the possibility of a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws, which House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said “threaten to increase … consumer confusion and food costs while interfering with interstate commerce.”
Conaway said the large majorities the bill received in the House and the Senate, where the bill passed 63-30, reflected a sense of urgency to nullify Vermont’s labeling law after it took effect in July. “The clock ran to zero,” he said. “People saw how important it was to get the interstate commerce thing cleared up.”
The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF), a collection of more than 1,100 entities representing the nation’s food supply chain, applauded Congress for passing the bill and President Obama for signing it into law.
“We are very pleased that President Obama has signed this vitally important legislation into law, creating a sensible disclosure standard that is transparent and consistent across all 50 states,” said Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and CFSAF co-chair.
“As Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts has observed, America’s food producing community has never been more united behind an issue,” said Charles F. Conner, CFSAF co-chair and president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has already formed a working group to write rules needed to implement the legislation, which is expected to take 18-24 months. The labeling requirements will cover foods created with conventional recombinant DNA techniques. Foods primarily consisting of beef, poultry, pork or eggs will not be required to carry a GMO label. Manufacturers will have two years before they have to include the labeling.
“As this law enters the rule-making process at USDA, the same farm to fork coalition that helped get this bill enacted into law will work to ensure that implementation is squarely in line with Congressional intent and in a manner that best serves consumers, farmers and food companies,” Conner said.
The National Academy of Sciences recently reviewed two decades of research and more than 900 studies and found no evidence that GMOs pose a hazard to human health.
“President Obama’s signature (puts) in place a uniform, national disclosure system that will provide balanced, accurate information to consumers,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “For decades, biotechnology has made it possible for farmers to grow safe and healthful crops while reducing their environmental impact. We are pleased that Congress and the administration have moved swiftly to prevent consumer confusion and protect agricultural innovation.”
Genetically modified technology incorporates desirable traits from nature into crops, resulting in plants that can be healthier, more nutritious and better for the environment. This process is done without introducing anything unnatural or using chemicals.
Growing GMO crops increases agricultural productivity while reducing land, water and pesticide use. Since their introduction, GMOs have helped feed more than 300 million Americans and a global population of 7 billion – of which 1 in 8 suffer from hunger and malnutrition.