Leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee Thursday announced a bipartisan compromise on GMO labeling legislation in advance of the pending implementation of a state law in Vermont.
“Our marketplace – both consumers and producers – needs a national biotechnology standard to avoid chaos in interstate commerce,” said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) about the compromise reached with Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). “I urge my colleagues to support this approach. It is a far better alternative than Vermont’s law with its destructive ramifications up and down the supply chain.”
Industry organizations reacted with support for the Senate compromise. “This is the solution needed for the entire food chain in our nation from farm to fork: consumers, farmers, food producers, manufacturers, retailers and small businesses,” said Coalition for Safe Affordable Food co-chairs Pamela Bailey of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Chuck Conner with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. “This solution increases consumer access to additional product information without stigmatizing a safe, proven technology that is relied on by American farmers. While Vermont’s GMO on-package labeling mandate is set to take effect on July 1, we remain confident that a national solution can be passed into law by Congress before the negative impacts of Vermont’s law become pervasive.”
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) urged the Senate and House to act swiftly to pass the legislation.
“The introduction of this solution comes at a critical time when Congress must act to restore sanity to America’s food labeling laws,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling. “It is imperative that the Senate and House both take up this issue immediately to avoid a situation in which all American consumers pay a high price and gain little actual information.”
Other groups coming out in favor of the compromise include the American Soybean Association and National Farmers Union. American Farm Bureau expressed some reservations, however. “We are reviewing this legislative proposal, and over the next few days will determine how it fits with our policy,” said AFBF president Zippy Duvall. “”The mandatory feature holds significant potential to contribute to confusion and unnecessary alarm. Regardless of the outcome, we continue to believe a national, voluntary standard remains the best approach.”
GMO labeling was a big topic of discussion at the American Seed Trade Association annual meeting this week in Portland, Oregon. ASTA president and CEO Andy LaVigne says the full Senate and House will still need to take action on the compromise. “They can get the law passed after July 1 but companies now have to start making decisions on what they’re going to do in case that doesn’t happen,” he said. “The thing we don’t want is for Vermont to run the country. We need to have a federal law.” Interview with Andy LaVigne, ASTA