Coalition calls for GMO solution as Roberts, Stabenow meet
Leaders of the Coalition for Safe, Affordable Food on Thursday called yet again for the Senate to come up with a bill to preempt the Vermont law requiring labeling of genetically modified foods from taking effect.
On a call to reporters, Chuck Conner of the National Council of Farmer Co-operatives said that it is not too late for the Senate to come up with a proposal that would garner the 60 votes to end debate and pass, and for that legislation to be approved by the House before Congress leaves next Friday for the July 4 recess.
On the press call – which also included Grocery Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pam Bailey and Food Marketing Institute President and CEO Leslie Sarasin – American Soybean Association CEO Steve Censky said that labeling could lead companies to reformulate their products away from biotechnology-enhanced food ingredients, specifically including products with GMO soybean oil and meal, and the impacts of such reformulation.
“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.
“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.
“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,” he concluded.
A spokesman for Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said Stabenow and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., were scheduled to meet Thursday, but at publication time there was no announcement of an agreement.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday that the issues had not changed and remain difficult, according to a report in Politico. Among the issues are whether the national labeling should be mandatory or voluntary, whether it should be on the label or on a smartphone or website, how it should apply to meat and when it should go into effect.