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The bipartisan introduction of the Safe & Accurate Food Labeling Act by U.S. Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) to establish a federal labeling standard for food and beverages made with genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) has earned enthusiastic approval from industry groups, in contrast to strong condemnation from advocacy groups who say it would deprive states of the right to craft their own labeling laws.
"This federal legislation would eliminate consumer uncertainty created by a state-by-state patchwork of labeling laws, advance food safety, inform consumers and provide consistency in labeling," noted Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). "The entire purpose of food labeling is to provide consumers throughout our nation with clear and consistent information. Congress must pass a bipartisan bill this year to ensure Americans continue to have access to consistent FDA-approved and science-based standards for food labeling."
Bailey went on to stress the wholesomeness of GMO ingredients, which have recently become a flashpoint issue between those who believe it should be mandatory for foods made with such ingredients to be labeled accordingly and those who don't. "The overwhelming scientific consensus is that GMO ingredients are as safe as any other food," she said. "The Food and Drug Administration and major scientific and health organizations such as the American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences and World Health Organization all have found GMOs are safe for humans and positive for the environment. More than 2,000 studies show a clear consensus among the world's leading scientific organizations that GMO ingredients are safe."
The alternative to a single federal labeling standard, added Bailey, would "create confusion, cause significant new costs for Americans, and lead to critical problems for our nation's grocery supply chain."
Other industry groups weighed in with their approval of the bill's introduction.
"Labeling has historically been and should continue to be reserved for food safety and nutritional purposes," asserted the Washington-based Snack Food Association (SFA), pointing out that the bill's introduction came just one day after SFA President and CEO Tom Dempsey and two member companies testified before the House Agriculture Committee on the costs and impacts of mandatory biotechnology labeling laws. "Though GMO foods have been proven safe, we understand that some consumers seek this information. The legislation calls for a voluntary USDA program to create a Non-GMO labeling certification process similar to the current USDA Organic seal. This allows food manufacturers to disclose this important information to consumers without hampering innovation and hurting small businesses."
According to Kraig R. Naasz, president and CEO of McLean, Va.-based American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), which also commended the proposed legislation, "A voluntary program, administered by FDA, to evaluate food labels that claim the presence, or absence, of genetically enhanced ingredients will bolster consumer confidence, while giving frozen food and beverage makers the certainty they need to meet the needs of America's consumers."