Ongoing State Biotech Crop Labeling Laws Could Receive Federal Stop Sign

Since being defeated in ballot measures to labeling products made using biotech crops in California and Washington State over the past few years, anti-biotech groups have re-doubled their efforts to have other states adopt such measures. Earlier this month, the governor of Vermont signed a law requiring food producers in the state to disclose the use of biotech crops on their product labels. Reportedly, 84 similar bills are currently pending in approximately 30 other states.

However, all these pieces of state legislation may ultimately be undone. In mid-April, legislation called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act was drafted by Representative G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS). If passed, this bill would move the regulating of biotech crop labeling to the FDA. That agency would require mandatory labeling on food with biotech crop ingredients only if these were found to be “unsafe or materially different from foods produced without biotech ingredients.” Manufacturers would still have the option to label their foods as being made without biotech crops, however.

Where should biotech crop labeling laws come from?

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“This bill prevents a mishmash of labeling standards and allow farmers to continue to produce higher yields of healthy crops in smaller spaces with less water and fewer pesticides,” said Butterfield. “If passed, this will be a big win for farmers nationwide.”

Ag groups agree. “This bill is a commonsense, science-based approach to an issue we realize is close to the hearts and minds of so many consumers,” said Ray Gaesser, an Iowa grower and president of the American Soybean Association. “Americans want to know that their food is safe, and the solution proposed is this bill will ensure that they have that information.”

Naturally, anti-biotech crop associations oppose this bill, labeling it an attempt by Congressional representatives and the biotech crop companies “to undermine efforts to pass state ballot initiatives mandating labeling of most products with genetically-modified ingredients.” According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, more than 80% of packaged food currently sold in the U.S. contains biotech crop ingredients.

It will be interesting to see where all these competing biotech crop labeling bills ultimately end up. But one thing is for sure – the fight over biotech crops will only get more intense as the year goes on . . .

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