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Food industry leaders discussed the immediate need for an agreement on a national GMO labeling standard in the U.S. Senate, ahead of Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law, which is set to go into effect July 1. The reason for the urgency is that the House of Representatives must also pass the Senate bill and will be out of session the last week of June, leaving only seven legislative days left for Congress to act.
“This is the most important issue currently facing America’s food producing community and one that could do significant harm to our nation’s entire food supply value chain,” contended Charles F. Conner, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and co-chair of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, during a media conference call. The coalition, comprising agriculture, food processors, manufacturers and retailers, has been trying find a workable solution to the issue.
“Markets for the crops that our farmers are growing today will be lost, and value of farmers’ crops will be diminished,” noted Steve Censky, CEO of the American Soybean Association, based in Creve Coeur, Mo. “Farmers will lose, and ultimately consumers will lose as a safe and valuable tool for sustainable food production is driven from the marketplace by activists who got a state to pass ill-conceived legislation that devastates farmer livelihoods and raises food costs for all Americans.”
“We truly believe the outline of a broad bipartisan compromise is there, now is the time to resolve any remaining differences and get an agreement – today,” asserted Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, also based in Washington.
“We support giving consumers more information about their food and beverage products,” added Bailey. “We support a national law and a uniform standard on GMO labeling so consumers everywhere have the same labeling standards, instead of a patchwork of different labeling mandates.” Food companies have already moved to provide consumers with more ingredient and product information than can fit on label via SmartLabel, a digital technology solution.
Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of Food Marketing Institute, based in Arlington, Va., recommended passage of a uniform standard for consumers across the United States. “I would stress today that Congress has an incredible opportunity in front of it that’s pro-consumer, pro-business and pro-farmer: They can author a new information era for consumers that meets shoppers wherever they are, with the information they seek,” she noted.