Group wants GM label standards

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — A new organization has formed to promote federal standards for labelling genetically modified food in the United States.

The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food comprises 32 farm and food industry organizations concerned about the proliferation of GM safety and labelling laws proposed at the state level. About half of the states in the U.S. are contemplating some form of GM labelling legislation.

Groups such as the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and Grocery Manufacturers Association are not thrilled by the prospect of having to deal with a patchwork of labelling laws.

“The goal of this (coalition) effort is to seek a federal solution that would establish standards for the safety and labelling of food and beverage products made with biotech ingredients,” NCGA president Martin Barbre told reporters at the 2014 Commodity Classic conference.

The coalition wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to establish federal standards for companies that want to voluntarily label their food products as containing or not containing GM ingredients.

It also wants the FDA to conduct a safety review of all new GM traits and be able to mandate the labelling of GM food ingredients if it determines there is a health, safety or nutrition concern.

Scott Faber, executive director of Just Label It, a group advocating for mandatory labelling of GM food, said the coalition proposal falls short of what is required.

“Voluntary labelling of genetically engineered ingredients is a failed system, and the food industry’s proposal is just more of the same,” he said in a news release.

“The solution to consumer confusion is to provide people with more information, not less. We welcome the opportunity to work with industry leaders to craft a federal solution that gives all consumers the right to know what’s in their food.”

Barbre said many state initiatives calling for mandatory labelling have failed, which is a relief. He can’t fathom how food companies would navigate a myriad of state laws.

“In my mind I can’t even envision how it would work without a federal law that has a set of standards for everybody,” he said.

The coalition estimates that 70 to 80 percent of the food consumed in the U.S. contains GM ingredients.

Part of its mandate will be to educate consumers that they are not putting themselves in danger by eating those food items.

The coalition said GM crops require less water and fewer pesticides and reduce the price of crops by as much as 15 to 30 percent.

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