Ag Policy Blog

Groups Take Different Sides on Senate Biotech Labeling Bill

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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As is often the case, National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation are lining up on opposite sides of the Senate bill on biotech food labels.

The National Farmers Union came out Tuesday announcing it was going its own direction and opposing the biotech labeling bill that the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee will take up on Thursday.

The committee will markup a bill introduced last week by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the ag committee. The bill would create a voluntary biotech food label and block states from implementing mandatory labels.

Not long after NFU came out with its statement opposing the bill, The American Farm Bureau Federation issued a statement that its board of directors voted Tuesday to support the bill. Farm Bureau said the Senate approach would provide consumers with a lot of information on genetically modified organisms in crops.

“The Senate Agriculture Committee this week is marking up a bill to provide American consumers a wealth of easily accessible, accurate information about GMOs through a voluntary, national GMO labeling program,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “The bill would pre-empt a patchwork of mandatory and misleading state GMO labeling laws founded more on scare-tactics than science, and we must move this process forward.”

The bill comes as a mandatory biotech labeling law is set to go into effect later this year in Vermont without federal legislation to supersede it. Food and farm groups opposed to mandatory labeling have used the Vermont bill as the main reason Congress needs to act and block mandatory biotech labels.

NFU, however, points out its 200,000 farmers and ranchers represent a broad array of practices, including farmers who use biotech crops and those who do not.

“The rights of GMO and non-GMO producers should be respected as equal while public concerns about GMOs are evaluated by federal agencies," NFU stated.

But the more liberal-leaning NFU also stated it supports transparency for consumers and mandatory biotech labels.

“NFU also values consumer rights, including the ability of consumers to have access to as much pertinent information as they want to know about their food. We support mandatory labeling of foods derived from genetically engineered plants, although we do not have policy on what such labeling should look like. As such, NFU opposes the proposed GMO labeling bill in its current form.”

The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food has ramped up the press statements supporting Roberts' bill. The coalition is a mix of grocers, food companies, biotech companies and commodity lobbies.

The coalition also released a study funded by the Corn Refiners Association citing that the Vermont food-labeling law would cost families anywhere from $50 a year to $1,050 a year.…

The viability of Roberts' bill will come down to how Democrats handle it not only in committee, but also on the floor where the bill would likely face much tougher opposition.

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2/26/2016 | 8:56 AM CST
Thank you for your socialistic tendencies.
Don Thompson
2/25/2016 | 10:57 AM CST
Craig Moore, If your question is "how many government programs do I participate in". My answer is: every one I can participate in. I pay enough in taxes of all variety that I have no problem with taking advantage of what is provided.