A broad coalition of commodity and food industry groups is pushing Congress to pass the recently announced “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 4432).” The bipartisan House bill would put the labeling of foods and beverages made with biotech — or genetically modified (GM) — crops under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA would study all GM traits and, if the agency finds it necessary, would require mandatory labeling of food found unsafe compared to non-GM products. Further, the standards developed by the FDA would allow companies to voluntarily label their products.

The American Soybean Association is solidly behind the legislation, says Ray Gaesser, president of the ASA and an Iowa farmer. “We want to build consumer support for biotechnology. As farmers, we believe that’s the answer to food safety and food security not just for U.S. citizens but for the world population. We need the biotechnology tools to provide the food that our world needs.

“As a farmer, I find the misinformation and fear that some are trying to spread about GM crops really disheartening. Biotechnology is a good thing.”

In early April, says Gaesser, he spoke with a friend in China. “I said, ‘We’ve got trillions of fields that have had biotech crops on them. And we’ve not heard of even one instance of adverse effects.’ That’s a good gauge for biotechnology.”

Coming up with federal standards is the smart way to approach GM labeling, says Gaesser. “This would be in lieu of states trying to develop their own standards for biotechnology labeling. Honestly, it would be impossible and unworkable for our farmers, food industries to have a mix of dueling regulations across the country addressing GM labeling.

“Without this legislation, you’d eventually have a mish-mash of labeling requirements across the country. Not only have some states begun to move towards labeling, there are even counties and cities that are trying to do that. That would lead to major problems.”

How long has The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food been working on this?

“Several years, actually,” says Gaesser. “More recently, we’ve been talking about this labeling at the federal level. We’re excited about this and believe it’s the answer to much of the misinformation floating around out there about biotechnology.”

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How quickly do you expect this to move through Congress?

“I don’t have a good handle on that. Right now, we’re just trying to build support for it.

“Hopefully, it won’t take long. It would be nice to get it out of committee soon and on the floor by the end of the year. But there’s no certainty about that.”

More support

Comments from other supporters of the labeling bill include:

  • The American Farm Bureau Federation.

“The diversity of innovative options farmers and ranchers have in regard to how they grow our food is one of the reasons U.S. consumers enjoy a wide variety of foods that are also among the most affordable in the world,” said Bob Stallman, AFBF President. “Farm Bureau supports all production practices -- and common sense, science-based regulations -- that ensure consumers are receiving safe and healthy food. But we will stand adamantly opposed to those who want to take tools and technologies away from America’s farmers and affordable choices away from consumers. 

“The GMO labeling ballot initiatives and legislative efforts that many state lawmakers and voters are facing are geared toward making people wrongly fear what they’re eating and feeding their children. They undermine the public’s understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology in feeding a growing population -- and keeping costs down.”

  • The National Corn Growers Association.

“A federal GMO labeling solution will allow consumers to feel confident in the safety of American food by affirming the FDA’s sole authority in food safety and labeling decisions,” said Martin Barbre, NCGA President and farmer from Carmi, Ill. “GMOs are important to farmers and to our nation’s food supply as they help us grow a stable supply of crops that can withstand a variety of changing conditions while reducing our use of chemicals…

"America's corn farmers want the same things as families across the country. We want to keep families safe and protect our nation's food supply. That is why we believe it is imperative important decisions about our safety and how we label what we eat should remain in the hands of experts, the scientists at the FDA.”

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  • The National Association of Wheat Growers.

“NAWG is pleased with the introduction of this bill,” said Paul Penner, NAWG president and wheat farmer from Hillsboro, Kan. “It will provide a federal solution on GMO labeling and will bolster consumer confidence in the safety of American food by affirming the FDA’s sole authority in food safety and labeling decisions.”