The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing this week on agriculture biotechnology (GMO) with that showcased the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding GMO safety, as well as the urgent need for Congressional action to pass a reasonable, common-sense solution that prevents a state-by-state patchwork of labeling laws.
“This is the first time in 10 years this Committee has held a hearing on agriculture biotechnology, a topic that is of utmost importance for producers in meeting the global food challenge” said Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS). “Science has come a long way in those 10 years, and we recognize those beneficial advances today.”
Wednesday’s hearing began with a panel of experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration offering testimony that reaffirmed the safety of GMOs.
Dr. Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, stated that “over the last 20 years, FDA has reviewed and evaluated data and information on more than 150 GE plant-derived foods…based on our evaluations, we are confident that foods from genetically engineered sources in the U.S. marketplace today are as safe as their conventional counterparts.”
The National Corn Growers Association also urged the Senate to act quickly to pass a uniform, national food labeling standard in light of today’s Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, highlighting the safety of genetically modified ingredients and the importance of biotechnology.
“NCGA and Congress agree: consumers should have access to food choices that are safe, nutritious, abundant and affordable,” said NCGA Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team Chair John Linder, a farmer from Edison, Ohio. “Congress, and only Congress, can now prevent a costly and confusing patchwork of state labeling laws from taking effect next year. The Senate must act now to avoid the negative consequences inaction will surely bring for consumers and farmers across the country.”
Following three hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives, this is the fourth time in the past 12 months where expert witnesses have confirmed the science and safety of biotechnology.
The Senate hearing comes less than ten months from the July 1 effective date of Vermont’s labeling mandate, which will be the first state to implement its own unique food labeling standard. Though Vermont’s law is currently being challenged in federal court, there is little chance of a judicial resolution in time to prevent the negative impacts of the misguided statute.
It it increasingly clear that a bipartisan solution is attainable. In July, the House of Representatives passed its own bill that creates a single, national labeling standard, as well as a GMO-free certification program that assures consumers who prefer to purchase non-GMO foods have a consistent, transparent means of identifying those products. That legislation passed by a 275-150 vote with support of 45 Democrats. The hearing provided plenty of evidence that similar bipartisan compromise is within reach in the Senate.