GMO lobbying picks up

Attempts to overturn Vermont's genetically modified foods labeling law picked up both at the court and congressional level.

Attempts to overturn Vermont’s genetically modified foods labeling law picked up both at the court and congressional level.

On Oct. 8, the Grocery Manufacturers Assn. presented arguments to the federal district court judge challenging Vermont’s labeling scheme set to go into effect July 1, 2016.

GMA has also joined with other agricultural and food groups to push for a national voluntary labeling law which would call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to design a program similar to the current certified organic label USDA oversees for GMO-free products.  

House members approved H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, by a two-thirds margin earlier this summer. The Senate has not found a Democratic co-sponsor to join Sen. John Hoeven (R., N.D.) for the bill.

A fly-in, organized by the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, featured men and women from 22 states who represent the entirety of the nation's food supply chain: farming groups, co-ops, seed producers and food companies .Over 125 food company executives and agriculture industry officials had more than 140 meetings on Capitol Hill on Oct. 7. Participants in the fly-in expressed the urgent need for action by the Senate soon on the critical issue.

The groups continue to believe a uniform, national food labeling standard will ensure that consumers in all 50 states have access to the same labeling information, bringing consistency and transparency to the marketplace.  Additionally, a GMO-free certification program will provide consumers who choose to purchase non-GMO items a reliable means of doing so.

"Coming from a family that grows soybeans for a living, a patchwork of state labeling laws would make my family's job tremendously more complex, and in farming, complexity equals money.  With Vermont set to become the first state with its own labeling standard next July, it is critical that Congress act this year before our nation's supply chain is needlessly complicated," said Brent Burchett, with the Kentucky Soybean Assn..  "My meetings in D.C. were very productive as we encouraged Congress to pass reasonable legislation that creates a consistent national food labeling standard this year." 

On the other side of the issue, a group of 95 state lawmakers (representing 21 states) who have either sponsored state GMO labeling bills, or supported state GMO labeling ballot initiatives or bans on GMO crops, have signed on to a joint letter asking Congress to oppose H.R. 1599, or any other federal law that would preempt states’ rights to enact GMO labeling laws.

In their letter, the lawmakers argue that states have a constitutional right to pass GMO labeling laws, as affirmed by a District Court in April with regard to Vermont’s labeling law.  

The Senate Agriculture Committee has also planned a hearing on federal regulation of agriculture biotechnology for Oct. 21 at 10 a.m. EST and will be webcast live on ag.senate.gov.

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