2014 VFBF Critical Legislative Issue #2: GMO Labeling

Earlier this month, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation announced its critical legislative issues for 2014. These are the issues Governmental Relations staff believe will be at the forefront during the next year’s General Assembly.  These issues are also discussed at Senatorial District meetings, regional legislative briefings for legislators held across the state during November and December. Each critical issue will be highlighted on Plows and Politics every day this week. If you are a producer member and would like to attend your region’s Senatorial District Meeting, please contact your Field Services Director for dates and locations.

Virginia Farm Bureau is urging legislators to:

• Not support legislation requiring the mandatory labeling of GMO food products

We support the continued use of technology by farmers to produce a safe healthy and abundant food supply.  Mandatory labeling of GMOs would be costly to the consumer and farmer, hinder market development and create obstacles in getting food to the market.  There is no need for mandatory labeling in the U.S. because biotech food has been deemed safe to eat by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

The following VFBF News Lead was sent to news outlets across the state at the end of October:

More than 1,700 scientific studies find GMO foods are safe 

The consensus of a research review of 1,783 scientific studies of genetically modified crops has determined that those foods are as safe as, or safer than, conventional or organic foods. 

“Anti-GMO proponents claim that genetically modified crops have not been tested or that the research has been done only by the companies that produce the seeds. But this review of scientific research proves that GM crops have been analyzed numerous times and ways,” said Lindsay Reames, assistant director of governmental relations for theVirginia Farm Bureau Federation.
Although there has been considerable research conducted regarding crop biotechnology, it had never been catalogued until recently. A team of Italian scientists decided to summarize 1,783 studies on the safety and environmental impacts of GM foods. 

They couldn’t find a single credible example demonstrating that GM foods pose any harm to humans or animals. “The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops,” researchers concluded. 

The research review was publishedin Critical Reviews in Biotechnology in September and spanned the past decade. 

Leigh Pemberton, a Hanover County farmer who grows GM corn to feed his dairy cows, said he has always believed that genetically modified crops are safe, but he’s glad there is now unbiased scientific evidence to back that up. “I see no problems with the seed industry continuing to offer more GM technology, and I think it’s a good thing, especially if we’re going to continue feeding a growing population,” Pemberton said. 

In 2012, roughly one-quarter of the world’s cropland was used to grow biotech crops. “Many farmers rely on GMO seeds to grow their crops, and without them farmers won’t be able to continue increasing their yields so they can help feed the world’s ever-growing population,” Reames said. “GMOs not only increase yields but also have been able to change gene traits in products to make them more appealing to consumers. For example, certain apple varieties that have been enhanced through biotechnology don’t turn brown.” 

The Italian scientists found “little to no evidence” that GM crops have a negative environmental impact on their surroundings. The team also found no evidence that approved GMOs introduce any unique allergens or toxins into the food supply. All GM crops are tested against a database of known allergens before commercialization, and any crop found containing new allergens is not approved or marketed. 

Biotech crops currently available on the market are the same from a compositional and nutritional standpoint as their non-GM counterparts. For example, GM corn is the same as non-GM corn, Reames explained. Testing has shown, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviews have confirmed, that GMOs are nutritionally equal to non-GM crops and have the same levels of key nutrients like amino acids, proteins, fiber, minerals and vitamins. 

In short, Reames said, “genetically modified foods are among the most extensively studied scientific subjects in history. The paper’s conclusion is unequivocal: There is no credible evidence that GMOs pose a threat to the environment or the public’s health.”

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