The House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on the bipartisan H.R. 1599, Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which aims to create a uniform, process-based national standard for labeling food products made with biotech ingredients.
Entitled “A National Framework for the Review and Labeling of Biotechnology in Food,” the hearing provided members with an opportunity to learn about the role genetic engineering plays in our nation’s food supply. Additionally, the hearing delved into state-specific labeling regulations and their potential impact on interstate commerce and consumers.
To read the updated legislative language circulating at the time of the hearing, click here.
Both the National Corn Growers Association and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives issued statements in support of the hearing held June 18.
John Reifsteck, a grain farmer from Champaign County, Ill., and the board chairman and president of Growmark, an Illinois-based farmer co-op, testified as to how biotech crops have helped him continue to farm in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.
“I know firsthand the value biotech crops provide to my operation. My farming experiences illustrate this,” testified Reifsteck. “In the past, I have abandoned parts of fields riddled with insect damage or overcome by weeds. Harvesting these fields would not just have been an economic loss, but would have presented a real risk of physical harm to me and my employees. These are memories I won’t forget. But they represent past challenges that biotechnology has helped me overcome.
“Biotechnology provides substantial benefits to producers, the environment and consumers. To reverse course now would wreak havoc among America’s agriculture industry,” he continued. “Make no mistake, that is what a patchwork of biotech labeling laws would be—an unworkable step backwards.”
To prevent such a situation, Reifsteck urged subcommittee members to support H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, introduced earlier this year by Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).
After the hearing, Reifsteck commented on a letter endorsing the new discussion draft of the bill sent to Energy & Commerce Committee members Wednesday by Representative Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and 29 of his colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee.
“Congressman Davis has long been a true leader in ensuring that farmers have the new products and technologies they need to run successful farming operations,” said Reifsteck. “As the chairman of the House agriculture subcommittee dealing with biotechnology, his letter yesterday signals growing support for H.R. 1599 and a level of cooperation between the Agriculture Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee that will be essential to producers as the bill moves forward.”
In comments made after the hearing, NCFC President and CEO Chuck Conner echoed Reifsteck’s support for the Pompeo-Butterfield bill. “There is tremendous momentum building behind H.R. 1599, as the hearing today in the Health Subcommittee attests,” said Conner. “I think that John laid out a great case, not only for the benefits that biotech brings but also why a uniform, federal labeling standard is needed. NCFC looks forward to working with members of the committee as the process moves forward.”
In a separate statement, the National Corn Growers Association also approved of the bill receiving bipartisan support.
“America’s corn farmers are pleased that the bill is receiving support from both political parties and from Members of Congress representing broad and diverse constituencies,” said NCGA Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team Chair John Linder, a farmer from Ohio. “We understand that, in this era of limited bipartisan agreement, the fact that support for this bill continues to grow is unique, and we believe this type of support indicates this common sense, consumer-friendly legislation can still advance through the legislative process. From farmers to food manufacturers, 400-plus organizations from all 50 states, representing every part of the food value chain, have publicly voiced ardent support for this bill. The time to move forward, for the sake of farmers and consumers alike, is now.”
The panel testifying during the hearing included: Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Blagden; Office of the Vermont Attorney General Assistant Attorney General Todd W. Daloz; Growmark, Inc. Chairman of the Board and President John Reifsteck; Center for Science in the Public Interest Biotechnology Project Director Gregory Jaffe; and Information Technology & Innovation Foundation Senior Fellow L. Val Giddings.