The Senate Agriculture Committee will consider Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, proposed legislation that preempts states from issuing their own mandatory labeling laws for foods that contain genetically modified organisms.
The bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national voluntary labeling standard for GMO foods. Roberts says that time is running out for Congress to act. The Vermont law goes into effect on July 1 and food companies are trying to make decisions now.
Another concern is a number of states are considering mandatory GMO labeling bills and if passed would create a patchwork of laws that companies would have to comply with which is nearly impossible. Efforts continue to try to find a bipartisan compromise prior to tomorrow’s markup.
The U.S. House of Representatives last year passed legislation that would allow for voluntary labeling and prevent states from requiring labels on genetically modified foods.
Ag coalition favors Roberts' bill
In related news, a coalition of 650 agricultural organizations and companies have lined up in favor of Roberts’ voluntary GMO labeling bill. The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food in a letter to Roberts said, without a national uniform solution to biotech labeling, U.S. agriculture would be threatened with large economic costs.
The coalition said, “The application of biotechnology to agricultural production has led to increased crop yields, decreased use of pesticides, and lower food costs for consumers. Congress must ensure we avoid senseless mandates that will thwart agricultural advancement and hurt consumers — especially those low income Americans who can least afford to pay more to feed their families.”
Those signing the letter included American Farm Bureau Federation, Agricultural Retailers Association, American Bakers Association, American Seed Trade Association, American Soybean Association, Food Marketing Institute, National Corn Growers Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Cotton Council, National Restaurant Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
As agriculture stated its support for the bill, an organization called “Moms Across America” came out in strong opposition to the bill stating, “This bill is an affront to our democracy and promotes poisoning the American people with our own money. Citizens who are aware of the reality of GMOs will not vote for any Senator who supports this bill.”
Report: GMO labeling would add to food budget
Meanwhile, the Corn Refiners Association released a study that says the Vermont mandatory GMO labeling law would require the American family to spend an additional $1,050 per year on groceries.
The economic analysis, “Cost Impact of Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law on Consumers Nationwide,” said the increased cost was due to the cost of the new labeling systems and because consumers will likely view the GMO labeling as warnings, leading food companies to switch from GMO ingredients to more expensive non-GMO ingredients. Other key findings indicated that low-income families would be disproportionately affected and food prices nationwide would increase nearly 2% in the first year.