U.S. House Passes GMO Labeling Bill

Randall Weiseman Alabama, Beef, Cattle, Corn, Dairy, Field Crops, Florida, General, Georgia, Industry News Release, Livestock, Pork, Seeds, Soybeans, Specialty Crops, Technology

GMO yellow sign with the corn crop in the backgroundThe U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Senate’s biotech food labeling bill (S764), otherwise known as the GMO labeling bill, by a vote of 306 to 117. The White House has already confirmed that President Obama would sign the compromise labeling bill.

Various agriculture groups have issued releases praising this action by the House:

From the American Soybean Association:

WASHINGTON (July 14, 2016) – Following the House passage of a bill that creates a national labeling standard for foods containing GMO ingredients, American Soybean Association (ASA) President Richard Wilkins, a soybean farmer from Greenwood, Del., recognized the House’s bipartisan work to provide certainty in the marketplace with the following statement:

“The passage of this bill allows for both consumers and producers to move on from this fight, and benefit from a uniformed, standardized labeling law across the country. We believe this thoughtfully-crafted compromise provides consumers with the information they need, without stigmatizing a safe and sustainable food technology. We appreciate the support from House leaders to get us to this point. ASA and its state and regional affiliates now encourage President Obama to sign this bill into law. Its enactment will stop a potential patchwork of state labeling and providing farmers, producers, manufacturers and consumers peace of mind as they continue to enjoy America’s safe and affordable foods.”

From the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food:

(Washington, D.C.) – The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF) today applauded members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted 306 to 117 to pass legislation that preempts Vermont’s GMO labeling mandate, protects American family farmers and small businesses and provides consumers the most ingredient information than ever before.

Today’s action, which follows a similar strong bipartisan vote last week in the United States Senate, clears the way for President Obama to sign this legislation into law.

“After more than two years working with Senators and House Members from both parties, today’s vote is a resounding victory not only for consumers and common sense, but also for the tremendous coalition of agricultural and food organizations that came together in unprecedented fashion to get this solution passed,” said Pamela G. Bailey, President and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and CFSAF co-chair. “Our entire coalition of agriculture and food groups sincerely thanks House Agricultural Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, Congressman Collin Peterson, Congressmen Mike Pompeo and G.K. Butterfield, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Senator Debbie Stabenow for their critical leadership on this issue, and all members of Congress who voted to create a more transparent disclosure system while preventing the costly effects of a patchwork of state labeling laws.”

Since early 2014, more than 1,100 food and agricultural groups have joined together in support of Congressional action to preempt Vermont’s law and pass a national, uniform food labeling standard that will provide consumers, farmers and businesses a consistent standard that is the same across the entire country. Chairman Roberts has stated that he has never before seen the food and agricultural communities as united as they have been on this issue.

“American farmers rely on agriculture biotechnology to help feed a rapidly growing world population and this bill ensures that genetically engineered crops will not be stigmatized due to mandatory on-pack labels,” said Charles F. Conner, CFSAF co-chair and President and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. “This is a vote for consumers and farmers and a vote against the campaign of fear and misinformation by anti-GMO activists against this safe, proven technology. We look forward to President Obama signing this legislation, which will immediately preempt the Vermont labeling law that is already impacting shoppers and small businesses in that state.”

From the National Milk Producers Federation:

ARLINGTON, VA – “Today’s action in the U.S. House to pass the Senate’s biotech food labeling bill is a resounding rejection of activists who have been working for years to undermine consumers’ understanding of the safety of food biotechnology. By reasserting the federal government’s role in regulating food labeling, the Congress is ending the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ approach of potentially conflicting state laws in this area.

National Milk greatly appreciates the efforts of members of both the House and Senate on this issue, which unfortunately has been one of the most challenging – and important – food policy issues of the 21st century. We strongly urge President Obama to sign this legislation into law. Once this process is complete, we can begin moving beyond specious arguments over labels, terminology and absence claims, and work to address real food safety and nutrition issues, and further the sustainability of our food system.”

From the American Seed Trade Association:

Alexandria, Va.—July 14, 2016—The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) praised today’s passage of common sense legislation to provide a transparent, uniform national food disclosure standard while protecting consumers, farmers and small businesses from the harmful consequences of a confusing and costly patchwork of state labeling mandates.

“We applaud Chairman Conaway and Roberts, Ranking Members Peterson and Stabenow, Congressmen Pompeo and Butterfield, and all the Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate who put politics aside and came together to do what’s right for American families and farmers,” said ASTA President & CEO Andrew LaVigne. “Failure to do so would have had long-term, irreversible consequences on our nation’s food supply chain. Genetic engineering is one of a wide array of safe and important tools plant breeders use to address global challenges. Thanks to this bill, products produced through this method will not be unfairly stigmatized with mandatory on-pack labels.”

From the National Corn Growers Association:

ST. LOUIS (July 14, 2016) — The National Corn Growers Association praised the U.S. House of Representatives for its vote today passing S. 764. Particularly, the association praised Chairmen Conaway and Roberts, Ranking Members Peterson and Stabenow, Congressmen Pompeo and Butterfield, and all of the members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, who worked together to pass this bill.

Now, NCGA calls upon President Obama to quickly sign this bill into law, thus avoiding the negative impacts of Vermont’s law.

“Today, our representatives in the House built upon last week’s work in the Senate, taking another important step toward bringing consistency to the marketplace,’ said NCGA President Chip Bowling, a farmer from Maryland. “This achievement was made possible as members of the food and agricultural value chain came together as never before to advance a solution that works for farmers, food companies and, most importantly, consumers.

“S. 764 ensures consumers have the access to product information without stigmatizing this safe, proven technology that America’s farmers value. Now that both houses of Congress have come together to address this important issue, we ask that the President take the final step by signing this legislation into law.”

America’s corn farmers, along with other family farmers across the country, rely on agricultural biotechnology to meet the demand of an ever-growing global population, while reducing their impact on the environment. The bill passed today ensures that mandatory, on-pack labels do not place an unwarranted stigma on safe, proven technology.

NCGA, working with partners across the value chain, has pushed for a solution to this issue for more than two years now as a member of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food.

For more information on the need for a federal labeling standard, visit the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, at www.CFSAF.org.

From the Produce Marketing Association:

Statement from Dr. Bob Whitaker, PMA chief science & technology officer:

PMA applauds today’s passage of federal labeling for genetically engineered (GE) foods in the U.S. Congress, and looks forward to this measure being signed into law by President Barack Obama. Having one national framework for labeling is vastly preferred by our membership to the risk of a patchwork of differing state-by-state laws, and the marketplace and consumer confusion that would have certainly followed.

We thank the leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees for their bipartisan work on this important bill on behalf of the entire agriculture community, specifically: Senate committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); and House committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN).

That said, PMA is concerned about the precedent that this legislation sets by requiring disclosure of information that does not impact human health and safety. There is broad scientific consensus that foods from GE crops are safe, as concluded a recent report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

Generally, PMA plans to continue to advocate for a flexible food production system that doesn’t curtail the innovation that fresh produce and other food producers will need to feed the world’s growing population. Specific to this law, PMA will closely monitor USDA’s rulemaking process and work to ensure that the fresh produce industry’s voice is represented if/as needed.

For more information, visit PMA.com.