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Industry Groups Criticize Inaction on GMO Labeling

Food industry organizations are taking members of Congress to task for failing to reach an agreement this year on legislation that would have prevented what they call a “costly and confusing 50-state patchwork” of mandatory GMO labeling laws.

“It is unfortunate that Congress has failed to take action this year to stop a patchwork of costly and misleading state labeling mandates, an issue of tremendous importance to consumers, farmers, food and beverage companies,” declared Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “In January, food manufacturers will face exponentially increasing costs totaling hundreds of millions of dollars to comply with Vermont’s GMO labeling mandate.”

Bailey said there is bipartisan agreement that “genetic engineering should not be stigmatized – it is the technology that feeds a hungry and growing world,” and that consumers should have access to consistent and helpful information about genetic engineering.

“Given there is so much common ground, we welcome [Agriculture] Secretary [Tom] Vilsack’s willingness to bring parties together in January to forge a compromise that Congress could pass as soon as possible,” Bailey said. “We are hopeful that compromise will establish a uniform national standard for foods made with genetically engineered crops.”

Likewise, the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food announced: “The failure of Congress to act will result in enormous costs to the agriculture and food industry who work tirelessly to feed a growing world population. Nearly 500 agriculture and industry groups in all 50 states have been urgently calling for Congress to pass uniform, national food labeling legislation to prevent serious and costly disruptions to the food production and supply chain. And now the burdensome threat of the Vermont law looms large.” 

While a bipartisan effort to pass the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act in July garnered support of 45 Democrats, action stalled in the U.S. Senate. “The negative consequences of the patchwork of state labeling mandates will be felt by farmers, businesses and consumers starting early next month – and only Congress can act to prevent it,” CFSAF declared.

Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute, added: “While we conclude the 2015 legislative session on several positive notes, we were extremely disappointed that lawmakers did not include a federal standard for GMO labeling. Still, we remain positive, since leaders of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee have already indicated that they will press for action in January and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has indicated his willingness to also engage.” 

Earlier this month, GMA member companies announced a national transparency initiative that will make it easier for consumers to get ingredient information on demand.

“SmartLabel provides consumers with a cornucopia of information at their fingertips about the ingredients in food, beverage and other consumer products,” Bailey said of the web-based mobile app. “We are working to ensure that vast majority of products that consumers purchase will have SmartLabel in the next several years. By the end of 2017, we estimate that 20,000 food products will disclose through SmartLabel whether they contain ingredients sourced from genetically engineered crops – and that number could triple once a Congress passes a uniform national standard for GMOs.”

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