There is now less than a week remaining for Vermont’s mandatory on-package labeling law to go into effect July 1. Thursday the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food called on lawmakers to reach a compromise on a national GMO labeling bill. Chuck Conner, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives president and CEO and co-chair of the coalition said negotiations are close to the finish line and he encouraged Senate leadership to finish off the small remaining differences.
“We need a win here,” he said. “We need them to finish, turn it back to us to go about the business of having our coalition and the 800 organizations that we represent, look at this and make the case before the Senate and the House that this is critical and has to happen within the next few legislative days here.”
Pam Bailey is the other coalition co-chair and president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. She said as of today the state of Vermont alone is effectively establishing national food labeling policy for GMO’s. The effects are already being felt.
“Inaction by congress as the Vermont law’s July 1st effective date looms, has already cost our industry millions and millions of dollars. Our coalition has consistently opposed mandatory, on-package GMO labels. We believe these on-package labels don’t provide consumers with any useful information. They will be seen as a warning and they will be used to stigmatize perfectly safe food and beverage products.”
Steve Censky, American Soybean Association CEO added there are many benefits to the use of this crop technology.
“Ag biotechnology has helped farmers to make both insect pest control and weed management safer while safeguarding crops against disease,” Censky explained. “It has allowed for a significant reduction in the use of pesticides and promoted no-till or reduced till agriculture systems that help preserve topsoil from erosion and enhance water quality.”
Leslie Sarasin, Food Marketing Institute president and CEO gave one example of why a national law is needed.
It’s not at all unusual for one distribution center to service five or more states. So Vermont’s law and those expected to come from Maine, Massachusetts, and other states in that region, will quickly make New England’s food labeling law so fragmented that a simple granola bar will be required to be labeled 5 different ways to meet the requirements of the various jurisdictions.”
The Coalition for Safe, Affordable Food is a broad-based coalition representing the entire American agriculture food chain. It is committed to increasing the public’s understanding about the science and safety of GMOs and advocating for a uniform labeling solution. Their press call Thursday was to ask Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow to come to an agreement quickly, before the Vermont law goes into effect July 1.