Say “Yes” to Science-Based Standards and “No” to Anti-GMO
The U.S. House of Representatives last Thursday (July 23) passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act with bi-partisan support. While this is great news for the seed industry, I’m concerned by the amount of misleading social media chatter and general “noise” this passage has created. I’m also concerned with headlines like “House Passes Anti-GMO Labeling Law.”
A headline of “House Supports Science-Based Labeling Standards” is more accurate, but I realize that not nearly as likely to draw in a reader. Since I have editorial control over TheFieldPosition, I’m going to take a few minutes and explain why Latham Hi-Tech Seeds owners joined a group of representatives from the American Seed Trade Association last month to visit Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The ASTA is one of nearly 500 organizations that sent a letter to Congress in support of H.R. 1599.
Bottom line: The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act creates a uniform, science-based labeling standard for foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The bill also creates a standardized, voluntary “Non-GMO” labeling program under the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
During in-person visits, we asked our elected officials to support H.R. 1599 because:
- Mandatory GMO labeling goes into effect in July 2016 in Vermont so it is imperative that Congress address this issue soon. Consistent labeling is needed nationally to benefit consumers and companies alike. A patchwork of state-based labeling requirements sets up consumers for price variation as U.S. businesses would have to pass along costs from inconsistent labeling mandates when doing business across state lines.
- Unnecessary labeling would drive up food prices by as much as $500 a year for a family of four, according to a study by Cornell University Professor William Lesseri. It’s much more efficient to label “GMO-free” than “GMO” products because 80 percent of the U.S. foods people eat contain ingredients that have been genetically modified.
- Labeling “GMO” foods makes consumers unnecessarily fearful; GMOs have been an important part of our nation’s food supply for the past 20 years. The world’s leading health and regulatory bodies, from the World Health Organization to the American Medical Association, have all concluded GMOs are safe. No human has died from eating GMO foods, but death have been associated with organic foods.
“The bill isn’t about “simply preempting states’ rights” to label foods containing GMO’s,” as agvocate Ryan Goodman wrote July 24 on his I Am Agriculture Proud Facebook page. “HR 1599 creates consistency for a national food system and leads to a USDA-led certification for voluntary labeling, which should make label claims more consistent (see Section 291A – “The Secretary shall establish a voluntary genetically engineered food certification program…”)
If someone really wants to avoid GMO ingredients, they can use the Organic certification system that’s already in place. “Don’t force a mandatory system on the entire population when there are already tools available for use,” says Goodman. Touché!
We already have systems in place for people who prefer to have their food produced in a specific manner. So why add costly, burdensome and confusing mandatory regulations to the silent majority?
Attention now turns to the Senate where we expect a similar bill to be introduced this fall. You can bet we’ll be contacting our U.S. Senators, asking them to support uniform federal labeling standards. Stay tuned for TheFieldPosition to see what develops!
In the meantime, please do what you can to help consumers understand why farmers plant GMO seeds. The Peterson Brothers have done a good job explaining what GMOs are and are not; click on this link to Advocate for the [GMO] Truth.