New GMO Labeling Bill Launches National Conversation

Farmers have welcomed the introduction of the bipartisan Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 4432), which will make it clear that the Food and Drug Administration is the nation’s foremost authority on the use and labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.  The legislation will provide a federal solution to protect consumers from a confusing patchwork of 50-state GMO labeling policies, and the misinformation and high food costs that would come with them. 

“The diversity of innovative options farmers 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,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in a statement.  “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, despite the fact that every credible U.S. and international food safety authority that has studied GMO crops has found that they are safe and that there are no health effects associated with their use.

In addition, much of the activity at the state level undermines the public’s understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology.  GMO crops use less water and pesticides, reduce the price of crops by as much as 30 percent and are key to feeding a growing world population of 7 billion people.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act protects consumers on two fronts.  First, it requires FDA to conduct a safety review of all new GMO traits well before they’re available on supermarket shelves and empowers the agency to mandate the labeling of GMO food ingredients if the agency determines there is a health, safety or nutrition issue with a new GMO technology. 

Second, it will ensure farmers have access to the technology they need to provide consumers with the variety of food options and price points they expect, and need.  This legislation will ensure food safety is the leading driver of a national labeling policy, while maintaining the affordability of the U.S. food supply. 

The bill would not prevent companies from voluntarily labeling their products for the absence or presence of GMO ingredients, but would instead direct FDA to establish federal standards for those voluntary labels. 

In his statement, Stallman noted farmers’ and ranchers’ appreciation for the bipartisan leadership of the bills’ sponsors, Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.)

“With the introduction of this legislation and the leadership of the bill’s sponsors, Farm Bureau looks forward to a national-level discussion that will affirm FDA’s role in assuring consumers about GMO safety and reduce the confusion that would result from a patchwork of state labeling initiatives,” Stallman said. 

For more information about the importance of biotechnology in agriculture, or to urge your congressional representative to support The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, please see the FBAct Insider’s biotechnology section, http://www.fbactinsider.org/issues/biotechnology-and-the-farm.

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