American Soybean Association (ASA) CEO Steve Censky again called on Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow to come to an agreement on legislation to set a national standard on the labeling of food products containing biotechnology. Censky indicated that as a steering committee member of the Coalition for Safe, Affordable Food, ASA will support a compromise struck by Roberts and Stabenow to move a solution forward.
On a press call alongside Grocery Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pam Bailey, Food Marketing Institute President and CEO Leslie Sarasin and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President and CEO Chuck Conner, Censky pointed to the looming threat of reformulation away from biotechnology-enhanced food ingredients, specifically including products including GMO soybean oil and meal, and the impacts of such reformulation on an already-teetering farm economy.
“Markets for the crops that our farmers are growing today will be lost, and value of farmers’ crops will be diminished,” said Censky. “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.”
“The lack of Senate action really threatens the livelihoods of the farmers we represent,” continued Censky. “Their crops are in the ground and growing, and they have leveraged their farms to take out operating loans in a depressed agricultural economy.”
Censky also highlighted the benefits to conservation and sustainability lost as a result of the potential reformulation away from biotech.
“Agricultural biotechnology has helped to make both insect pest control and weed management safer while safeguarding crops against disease,” Censky said. “It has allowed for a significant reduction in the use of pesticides, and promoted no-till or reduced tillage agriculture systems that help preserve topsoil from erosion and enhance water quality. Today over 90 percent of the soybeans, corn, cotton, and sugarbeets grown by U.S. farmers are biotech enhanced because of these very benefits.”
“Farmers are used to responding to the market. The U.S. and world markets have told farmers that they want farmers to produce safe and healthy crops to feed growing U.S. and world populations,” concluded Censky.
“Health agencies from around the world repeatedly have affirmed the safety of biotech crops. Yet because of the lack of Senate action we are on the verge of having one state with a bit over 600,000 people dictate nationwide food policy and stigmatization of biotechnology through on-pack labeling.”
Roberts and Stabenow have indicated that they continue to make progress toward a solution, however only a handful of legislative work days remain for the Senate prior to the Vermont law’s July 1 implementation deadline.