H.R. 1599 – GMO Labeling at the Federal Level

I’ve seen a lot of headlines come across social media lately in regards to H.R. 1599 – The Safe and Affordable Food Labeling Act. Most of them have stated in  one way or another that our Federal Government is banning GMO labeling on foods. When you see headlines like “Congress may ban states from GMO labeling” instead of “Congress may create federal GMO labeling program” how do you interpret it? (Thank you CNBC by the way for that misleading headline!)

This is why we need to learn to evaluate our sources and frankly, read the proposed bill ourselves. It is set to be voted on by the House today, and is suspected to pass due to bipartisan support.

So what does this bill actually do? It creates a voluntary, federal GMO labeling program. Why is it important that GMO labeling is done at a federal level? It is important because right now, the creation of patchwork state GMO labeling laws are hurting consumers, businesses and confusing grocery stores and people alike. What does a GMO label or Non-GMO label mean in Iowa if standards are different in Missouri? Frankly, it doesn’t really mean a thing to consumers. If each state can make different rules about what is allowed and what isn’t, then what does that say about the trust of a label? And why would we need one at all then, if it doesn’t have a set standard?  This bill would also arrange federal policy for GMO labeling, which currently requires labeling for genetically-engineered products that are materially different from their conventional counterparts in terms of functional, nutritional, or compositional characteristics.

GMO infographic

A federal labeling system would create clarity for the consumer by clearly labeling products the same way, with the same requirements. For instance, you would only see one label, same color, same design, same logo, etc. backed by the FDA, rather than a Minnesota label on this pack of cereal from Company A and a Idaho label on this box of cereal from Company B. Does this actually create the label if it passes? Not at this time, but it gives authority to the FDA to set the standards and create a federal labeling program if needed. Currently, the patchwork of state labeling that is starting, will drive up costs of production for food companies, and this cost will ultimately be passed on to consumers or consumers won’t be able to purchase a favorite product made in New York because that company doesn’t want to pay to put a label on created by Vermont’s state, or pay for the number of employees it would take to understand and cover all the regulations from states with labeling requirements.

I am all about consumers having more knowledge about their food and what they feed their families. I know for some, organic is very important to their lifestyle and diet. For me, thought it isn’t a big deal. However, it has been stated over and over again that there is no difference between GMO and non-GMO foods and they are safe – See HERE and HERE. It is also why I’m an advocate for doing your own research – finding scholarly articles and science based fact, and asking farmers directly, rather than reading the news headline. I went and read through H.R. 1599. It isn’t about banning labels, it’s about creating labels – and giving the FDA the ability to create a federal regulation that is easier for consumers to recognize and understand, as well as for companies and businesses to follow. If you choose to follow a non-GMO diet, that is just fine and you can do so by purchasing foods with the USDA Certified Organic label currently. What I don’t want, is a Mom at the grocery store confused as to what GMO, Non-GMO and Organic mean in one state versus the other and what apple is what. I don’t want a mom stretching her grocery budget to have to pay $2 more for a nutritious food product because Food Company X had to put a special label on their product in order for it to be sold in her home state. Sometimes, federal regulation is necessary and this is one of those times.

Many farmers and farm organizations support the passage of H.R. 1599, despite many of us also believing that GMO’s are safe and don’t need labeling. We understand that consumers want more knowledge about what they eat, but we also know a hodgepodge system isn’t the answer either. We want clarity for everyone involved from the farmer to the food industry to the consumer.

Find out more HERE about why Farm Bureau supports H.R. 1599 and find out some information about Minnesota and GMO’s and labeling. 

-Sara

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