The Agricultural Retailers Association, the American Soybean Association and the National Grain and Feed Association were three of the first organizations to issue strong support for federal legislation introduced on Wednesday that will create a national, science-based labeling standard for foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These groups along with most farming and commodity organizations are urging Congress to quickly pass the bill.

The legislation would ensure that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remains the authority on food safety and labeling standards in the United States. It was introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Rep. G.K Butterfield (D-N.C.). It would replace state passed GMO labeling or future state labeling requirements.  

"Agricultural retailers are optimistic the broad support of this bipartisan proposal will lead to quick passage of the bill, and we applaud the leadership of Reps. Pompeo and Butterfield," said Daren Coppock, ARA president and chief executive officer. "A patchwork of labeling laws would be untenable for farmers and food companies, and result in less clarity for consumers."

Wade Cowan, ASA president and West Texas-based farmer, said, “This bill would end confusion for consumers over which food products do not contain biotech ingredients by establishing a national standard for non-GMO labels. That way, all of the products in the grocery store that don’t contain GMOs will have one simple, easy-to-understand label on them, and the consumer gets the information he or she is looking for.”

Also noting the need for this legislation’s approach, NGFA President Randy Gordon said, “Importantly, this bill also provides for consumer choice and certainty for those who prefer to purchase products that do not contain biotech-enhanced ingredients, while at the same time not encumbering other consumers with the significant costs that have been shown to be inherent in a state-by-state mandatory biotech-labeling approach.”

A hodgepodge of mandatory state labeling laws threatens to harm interstate commerce, drive up the price of food and increase consumer confusion. The legislation introduced, “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” will ensure labeling decisions are established by science-based, uniform standards that are consistent in every grocery store in all 50 states, noted the ARA.

Nearly 2,000 studies from the leading scientific bodies in the world, including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association have declared GMOs safe. Bill and Melinda Gates and Bill Nye, the Science Guy, have recently touted the benefits of biotechnology, which helps feed a growing world by allowing farmers to produce higher yields on less land while using fewer pesticides.

"For nearly two decades, genetically modified seeds have been an important tool for farmers to increase yield while reducing the need for crop protection products," Coppock added. "Farmers adopt them quickly because they work. And time and again, biotechnology has been proven safe."

Due to the complexity of the American food chain, state-by-state labeling will severely cripple the supply chains of our nation's food producers. These costs—as much as $500 a year for a family of four, according to a Cornell University study—would be passed on to consumers. Many family-run businesses would simply be unable to navigate these new hurdles, the ARA contends.  

"It is imperative that Congress pass this legislation this year to help consumers who are looking for more transparency in labeling, not laws riddled with carve outs and exemptions that vary from state to state," Coppock added. "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act is the common sense solution to the labeling question."

More information about GMO labeling is available at www.coalitionforsafeaffordablefood.org and www.gmoanswers.com.