January 2016
Support for Voluntary Labeling By John Keeling, NPC Vice President and CEO

As the First Session of the 114th Congress draws to an end, potato growers from Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Washington and Wisconsin went the distance by traveling to our nation’s capital to lend their voices in support of voluntary GMO labeling legislation being debated in the U.S. Congress. The fly-in, which was orchestrated by the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, paired potato growers with 160 other individuals representing the food supply chain. The message to Congress was simple: Individual state regulations are not a workable solution to labeling for the U.S. food supply.

Legislation moving through Congress would preempt state and local GMO labeling laws, eliminate the confusion associated with a patchwork of state labeling standards and establish FDA as the sole authority making science-based food safety decisions. The potato industry is backing legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), H.R. 1599, which passed the House by a vote of 275-150. Similar legislation is being proposed by Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota). Both measures support consumer choice and create an environment where food suppliers can provide GMO related labeling requested by consumers voluntarily based on federal guidelines.

In discussions with members of Congress, growers pointed out the key facts about GM products that every consumer needs to know. The consensus opinion of scientists is that GMO technology is safe and offers benefits to the environment. FDA has determined that there are no material differences between GM and conventional traits. FDA currently holds the authority to mandate labeling on any GM trait when a material difference exists, such as a GM trait that contains a known allergen. Mandating a label would suggest the product has a health concern and needlessly stigmatize an important technology that has been proven safe.

These facts show it would be a mistake to begin mandatory labeling on the basis of unscientific opposition to individual production practices. A national voluntary labeling standard for foods made with genetically modified organisms, combined with a national GMO-free certification program, is a reasonable, common-sense solution that provides for consumers’ right to know in a manner that is in line with existing labeling precedent.

Growers also explained to elected representatives that the added cost of meeting individual state packaging and labeling requirements would dramatically increase costs to consumers. Based on the analysis done by the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, complicated state-by-state labeling requirements would add $500 to the average family’s grocery bill each year. With the current momentum, it is important that we see this much-needed legislation passed by the end of the year.

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