Rapundalo: Senate Compromise on GMO Labeling – Awaits Floor Vote
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Posted by: Kate Oesterle
Leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee Thursday announced a bipartisan compromise on legislation to govern the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO), in advance of the pending implementation of a state law in Vermont.
“Our marketplace – both consumers and producers – needs a national biotechnology standard to avoid chaos in interstate commerce,” said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) about the compromise reached with Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). “I urge my colleagues to support this approach. It is a far better alternative than Vermont’s law with its destructive ramifications up and down the supply chain.”
Michigan’s Sen. Stabenow has been instrumental in the entire debate over food labeling for several years. MichBio has worked actively in partnership with state and national organizations to educate staff in Sen. Stabenow’s office and on the Senate Agriculture Committee regarding the implications that poor food labeling policies would have on food manufacturers and processors, and agri-biotech innovation overall.
Under the bill food manufacturers would have three options to show that their products contain GMOs. In addition to a text or symbol, companies would be able to place a code on their product labels that could be scanned by a smart device, according to the bill.
The bill, announced a week before Vermont’s GMO labeling law is set to go into effect, would preempt that law and a patchwork of other confusing state laws already on the books, and those being contemplated. Such state laws have already exacted a steep cost to Michigan food manufacturers and their entire food supply chain even in advance of the Vermont law’s effective date. Lack of uniform federal guidelines would have been unduly burdensome to the entire food supply chain, as well as raising costs for consumers, and not to mention raising confusion in the interpretation of differing food labels.
The proposed compromise legislation should result in better transparency, clarity and consistency in disclosure and reflects the wide variety of ways that consumers will get this information about the foods they buy.
In exchange for federal preemption, the legislation calls for the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to establish national standards for labeling food that is bio-engineered or may be bio-engineered and to implement a program to require the disclosure of bio-engineered food information to consumers. The proposed food labeling bill establishes a specific definition of “bio-engineered food” and a number of guidelines that USDA-AMS must follow as the agency establishes this new, mandatory bio-engineered food disclosure program.
MichBio full supports the proposed food labeling compromise bill is a good approach that balances the interest of consumers with the need for agricultural innovation to flourish. We ask that the Michigan Congressional delegation support the legislation as it moves forward for full Senate consideration and House support.