Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Tuesday 01/07/14

Food Groups Push Federal Biotech Labeling Law

An article Tuesday in Politico reported some of the nation's biggest food lobbies, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have drafted a bill that would prevent states from creating their own biotech labeling laws. Instead, the food industry wants the Food and Drug Administration to take on a bigger role in biotech oversight and would create standards for labeling food as "GMO-free."

According to the draft document posted by Politico and the Environmental Working group, the bill "would create a uniform, national program governing the premarket review and labeling of genetically engineered foods."

The bill comes after food and biotech companies have spent nearly $70 million over the past two years to defeat biotech labeling ballot measures in California and Washington State. State legislatures in Connecticut and Main have passed legislation to require biotech labels. Comparable bills were debated last year in at least a dozen other states.

“We believe that it’s important for Congress to engage and provide FDA with the ability to have a national standard” on GMO food labeling, Louis Finkel, head of government affairs for GMA, told Politico. “A 50-state patchwork of regulations is irresponsible.”

Biotech issues continue to fester. The issues took on a new life last week when General Mills announced it would not include any ingredients from biotech crops in Cheerios. That effectively amounted to General Mills switching its cornstarch and ensuring that sugar used for Cheerios would not come from biotech sugar beets. Anti-biotech groups and consumers praised General Mills' move. It is likely that the new Cheerios will be labeled as "GMO free."

Under the proposed legislation, companies would have to submit information to FDA about "bioengineered food" in its products. FDA would only be allowed to require a label if the biotech ingredients create a "material difference" to comparable foods without biotech ingredients. "The use of bioengineering does not, by itself, constitute a material difference."

Companies could make claims that their food products do not contain any biotech ingredients only if they have full traceability systems in place.

Also, the bill would preempt any state labeling laws that are not identical to the federal program.

The hype on biotechnology also comes after the New York Times reported Sunday on a city councilman in Kona, Hawaii, who became skeptical over the complete negative campaigns against GMOs in his state.

A copy of the legislative proposal: http://dld.bz/…

The full Politico article: http://www.politico.com/…

The NYT piece: http://www.nytimes.com/…&

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN.

Posted at 4:55PM CST 01/07/14 by Chris Clayton
Comments (4)
Chris: Thank you for this information. I do not want to take a position in this comment on the efficacy of GMOs. However, I will say this - once food is labeled "Contains GMO" or "Contains No GMO," then consumers will start to react, over time anyway. If the labeling goes through, I believe GMOs could go the way of BGH. At this point, I know that Kroger, Meijer, and other suppliers in my area of Ohio have removed BGH from all of their dairy products. Chris, consumers vote with their dollars and their feet, and I am telling you, once GMO labeling begins, there will be a gradual phase-out of GMOs. I know too many people, well informed or not, well-intentioned or not, who are avoiding GMOs. The labeling of such will be the beginning of their demise.
Posted by tom vogel at 7:41AM CST 01/08/14
I find it comforting that food corporations rather than being up front and honest with consumers would rather once again game the system. Then they wonder why they have to spend so much money on marketing or have terrible public relation numbers. They constantly have to worry that the public may get wise.
Posted by ron shepard at 9:35AM CST 01/08/14
tom shows the problem that is out there with the public with what is really going on in the ag scientific area. I'm sure he means rBGH otherwise there are a lot of cows getting their pituitary gland removed. What comes to mind is the nitrates in bacon or ammonium hydroxide in LFTB and the furor they caused. Bacon is as popular as ever and if you look on the ingredient chart of a lot of products and not buy any with ammonium hydroxide in it, you are going to be missing a lot of groceries. I think it would be best to spend all the funding fighting the labeling laws and spend it in educational areas. If the GMO free food costs much more than that with GMO is going to have more to do with its success or not.
Posted by CRAIG MOORE at 9:36AM CST 01/08/14
That is correct, Craig. Thank you for the clarification. I just know it as the Bovine Growth Hormone. Shows how much I know about dairy.
Posted by tom vogel at 9:56PM CST 01/08/14
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