GMO Labeling Issue Remains Unresolved in Congress

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported earlier this week that, “A single reporter had just one more question about GMO labeling for Sen. Debbie Stabenow as the senator rushed from a conversation with reporters to another event on Tuesday.

“With the letters GMO still ringing in the air, a pack of reporters followed Stabenow out the door to catch one more snippet of information on what direction the Senate could go GMOs.

“Low commodity prices, input costs and planting season might be the issues taking up the attention of farmers, but GMO labels continue to dominate the conversation among leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees who met Tuesday with members of the North American Agricultural Journalists.”

The DTN article indicated that, “‘I think the biggest problem we have in agriculture is all of this labeling,’ said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee.

“Vermont is moving on with its GMO labeling regime and companies have responded in different ways as some have decided to label whether their products contain ingredients from genetically modified crops while other companies are reformulating their food products to avoid using ingredients from biotech crops.

“The U.S. Senate failed to pass a federal preemption bill in March in a 48-49 vote when the bill needed 60 votes to pass. That bill, however, and a House version that was passed last year, would have prevented labeling a food product as genetically modified or genetically engineered unless the Food and Drug Administration saw a health reason to do so.”

Mr. Clayton explained that, “Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, wouldn’t use the term GMO when talking to reporters. He said ‘agricultural biotechnology’ but said there was not yet another compromise to sway at least 12 senators to shift their votes and back it.

“‘When that happens on the other side of the aisle that should be vetted by the producers, the growers and everybody connected to the food industry,’ Roberts said. ‘That simply has not happened.’

Roberts said staff on the Senate Agriculture Committee continue to work on a solution. He added that the problem isn’t isolated to Vermont or a handful of states, but to as many as 31 states considering different labeling rules that could completely hamper food-processing companies around the country.”

The DTN article added that, “[Rep. Collin Peterson (D., Minn.)] said the marketplace could sort out the labeling issues and everyone could discover the vast majority of consumers aren’t as interested in the biotechnology aspects of a product as advocacy groups and others believe. At the same time, Peterson noted right now companies are starting to label everything including salt as ‘non-GMO.'”

Recall that Oklahoma State University agricultural economist Jayson Lusk indicated in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that, “My research shows that when people are directly asked how they want the issue of GMO labeling to be decided, they do not defer to politicians or their fellow citizens. In a survey last May, a strong majority, 61%, preferred to put the matter to experts at the Food and Drug Administration. This seems to be borne out at the ballot box: To date, referendums on mandatory labeling have been held in five states, and none has passed.”

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