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American farmers and representatives from nearly 30 industry and non-governmental organizations have formed the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, which will encourage Congress to establish a single national framework for the safety and labeling of food and beverage products made with genetically modified ingredients (GMOs).
The coalition will also provide policymakers, media, consumers and all stakeholders with information on ingredients grown through GM technology, as well as push for “commonsense policy solutions” on the issue.
“Foods made with GMOs are safe and have a number of important benefits for people and our planet,” noted Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). “Our nation’s food safety and labeling laws should not be set by political campaigns or state and local legislatures, but by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA].”
Added Bailey: “GMO technology has fostered a revolution in American agriculture that has benefited consumers in the United States and around the world. And with global population expected to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, we will need 70 percent more food production to keep pace. A federal GMO labeling solution will provide a framework for the safe and continued use of technology that is essential to the future of our planet.”
During a media teleconference heralding the coalition’s launch, Bailey said that a single federal standard for the labeling of foods containing GMOs would eliminate consumer confusion and do away with a 50-state patchwork of differing regulations.
Other reasons cited by coalition members for a uniform GMO labeling standard are to advance food safety, inform consumers so they can make up their own minds about such products, and provide consistency for manufacturers and consumers by defining the word “natural” for use on food and beverage products.
“A federal solution on GMO labeling will bolster consumer confidence in the safety of American food by reaffirming the FDA’s role as the nation’s foremost authority on the use and labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients,” noted Martin Barbre, president of the Chesterfield, Mo.-based National Corn Growers Association.
Clarifying the coalition’s goals with regard to federal action, Bailey during the teleconference explained that the group favors a single national labeling framework either for the presence or absence of GMOs (although members seemed to lean toward GMO labels only if warranted by health, safety or nutrition concerns), resulting in clear labeling standards that companies can apply voluntarily. The group also supports making FDA pre-market approval of GMOs mandatory.
Also at the teleconference, coalition members stressed the safety of GMOs, as found by numerous influential regulatory agencies and organizations, including the FDA, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization. Other points raised during the event were that up to 80 percent of foods eaten in the United States already contain GMO ingredients, and that foods grown using such pesticides require fewer pesticides, less water and keep production costs down. The group also offers this information online.
As to why the coalition was formed now when the issue has existed for about 20 years, Bailey replied, “We’re stronger together than we are individually.” Cathy Enright, EVP food & agriculture at the Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization, characterized the group’s planned activity as “a farm-to-fork information effort.”
In addition to the representatives of the associations cited above, coalition members include the American Bakers Association, American Beverage Association, American Frozen Food Institute, American Soybean Association, Corn Refiners Association, Council for Responsible Nutrition, Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association, Global Cold Chain Alliance, International Dairy Foods Association, National Association of Manufacturers, National Confectioners Association, National Fisheries Institute, National Restaurant Association, National Turkey Federation and Snack Food Association.