GMA Reveals Government Agenda

The Grocery Manufacturers Association held a press conference yesterday in Washington to discuss their recommendations over the next 12 months for the incoming president and Congress on critical issues to the food industry. A panel of the group's most senior legislative, regulatory and scientific experts was present at the conference to discuss the recommendations.

According to the experts, the pressing issues for the industry are food and product safety, health and wellness, international trade and regulatory issues, and biofuels.

On the subject of food safety, GMA urges the increase of food-relating spending for the Food and Drug Administration to $900 million by 2012, as prior spending hasn't kept pace with inflation; the proposal that every food manufacturer should have in place a food safety plan, to be update every three years; that foreign food suppliers should likewise have such plans, which would be subject to FDA review, and that the agency should have the authority to order mandatory recalls in cases of severe adverse health consequences, in the extremely rare event that a company declines to issue its own, among other recommendations.

Regarding health and wellness, the organization wants the government to act in a bipartisan manner to enhance funding for school breakfast programs in particular; set national nutrition standards, to keep up with work in that direction already begun in the private sector; and revise the dietary guidelines based on scientific evidence and with an overriding goal of reaching and motivating consumers.

GMA's position on trade is to encourage the resumption of multilateral negotiations on free trade agreements so as to reinvigorate the economy.

For biofuels, the group is backing as part of the economic stimulus plan a significant investment in second-generation biofuels made from such materials as crop and wood waste, and supports the phasing out of ethanol subsidies to producers of cellulosic and advanced biofuels, a practice that GMA believes has helped drive up food prices.

As GMA SVP, chief government affairs officer Mary Sophos noted during the conference, much of the association's current platform has already been incorporated into bipartisan legislation introduced last year by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and others, so "the groundwork has been laid," but there still remains "unfinished work" to be done. With such legislation already drafted, however, that work could be accomplished "relatively quickly and easily," she said.
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