More than 652 groups from across the nation, including the South Dakota Soybean Association, urged the Senate Agriculture Committee to approve a uniform national food labeling bill developed by Chairman Pat Roberts. Roberts, (R-KS), has scheduled a mark-up for Thursday on his proposal to set a common-sense national standard for food labeling of genetically engineered ingredients to prevent a costly and confusing patchwork of state labeling mandates.
“It is vitally important for the Senate to take expedited action in order to avoid the economic costs of a patchwork of state laws that will directly impact consumers, farmers, and the entire food value chain,” said the letter released by the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food. The groups signing the letter pledged to work with the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee to find a bipartisan solution that could be approved soon.“The issue of biotech labeling is one of the most significant issues that the agriculture and food industry has faced in recent years,” the groups said in their letter. “The U.S. agriculture and food industry creates over 17 million jobs, representing nearly 10% of all U.S. employment and creating 5% of U.S. economic activity. This very system—which produces the most abundant, the highest quality, and the most affordable food supply in the world—will be threatened with large economic costs without a national uniform solution to the biotech labeling issue.”
In October, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on biotech and biotech labeling, and witnesses from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency all reaffirmed their long-standing recognition that genetically engineered foods are safe. Testimony at the hearing also showed the need for a national uniform solution and the imperative to avoid any solution that would stigmatize biotechnology for consumers.
The House of Representatives passed its version of a national food labeling bill in July with strong bipartisan support, and the Senate Agriculture Committee meeting on Thursday would be a major step forward in that chamber.
“The application of biotechnology to agricultural production has led to increased crop yields, decreased use of pesticides, and lower food costs for consumers,” the CFSAF letter said. “Congress must ensure we avoid senseless mandates that will thwart agricultural advancement and hurt consumers—especially those low income Americans who can least afford to pay more to feed their families.”
Earlier this week, a new economic study commissioned by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), found that the Vermont mandatory labeling law, which goes into effect July 1, could increase the price of groceries by nearly $1,050 annually for families throughout the U.S. This highlights the far-reaching impacts one state’s misguided law will have on the entire nation’s food chain and emphasizes the urgent need for Congressional action to prevent people already struggling with the cost of food from having to pay significantly more.
“The U.S. Senate needs to quickly pass this reasonable legislation by Chairman Roberts that will protect consumers, farmers and small businesses across the country from costly price hikes while ensuring that shoppers have access to the same food labeling information no matter where they live or shop,” said Claire Parker, spokesperson for the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food. “The overwhelming support from across the food supply chain demonstrates the imperative that unless Congress acts, farmers and consumers will pay the price of costly and confusing state food labeling mandates.”
The letter can be found here.