The American Soybean Association (ASA) signaled its strong support today for legislation from Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) that would set a national standard for the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs.
“This package has been a long time in coming, and we’re happy to see it introduced today,” said ASA First Vice President Ron Moore, a soybean farmer from Roseville, Ill. “Soybean farmers absolutely support this bill and we call on the Senate to pass it as soon as possible.”
The bill would establish a national standard of mandatory disclosure through a variety of options, including quick-response (QR) codes, 800-numbers, websites and on-pack labeling, such that companies would be able to select the method of disclosure that works best for their range of products.
“The work put in over the past year by Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow has yielded a piece of legislation that gives consumers the information they want and need, yet doesn’t drive a proven-safe technology from the marketplace through the stigmatization that comes with language that could be perceived as a warning label,” added Moore.
By setting a national mandatory standard, the bill would preempt state labeling laws, and in doing so prevent a patchwork of differing standards between states. Also, and perhaps most importantly for the nation’s soybean farmers, the establishment of the national standard removes the stigmatization that comes with explicit language on products.
“We’ve seen time and time again that regardless of the repeated proven safety of GMOs, consumers react negatively when presented with a product containing a warning label,” said Moore. “If consumers panic and run from these products based on false stigmatization, companies are forced to reformulate away from this safe and affordable technology. Not only would this result in food more expensive food for consumers, but prices for soybean producers would fall sharply.”
The legislation is the product of a full year of discussions and negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, a point ASA says illustrates the bipartisan, compromise nature of the package, and cites as a key reason for the association’s support.
“We get nothing from a ceremonial effort,” said Moore. “What we need is a piece of legislation that can pass, and in today’s Congress, that means a bipartisan compromise. There are 30 soybean-growing states in the U.S.—that’s the 60 votes we need to pass the bill in the Senate. The Chairman and the Ranking Member have a comprehensive bill that both Republicans and Democrats can support and we will call on every one of the soy-state Senators to back this farmer priority.”
It is anticipated that the bill will come to the Senate floor for a vote next week.