In a victory for consumer choice, science and fact-based food labeling, the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act today with a solidly bipartisan vote. Today’s vote is a testament to the reasonable approach this legislation takes to ensure consumers have access to the information they want while avoiding the costly price hikes and misinformation associated with a patchwork of food labeling laws.
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, introduced in March by Congressmen Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), guarantees that federal regulators will remain in charge of food safety and labeling in the United States, just as they have been for decades. The bill also creates a uniform labeling standard for foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Additionally, the legislation creates a national GMO-free certification program, modeled on the widely popular National Organic Program, which will give consumers who prefer to buy non-GMO foods a transparent, consistent means of doing so.
This legislation was precipitated by the attempts of anti-GMO activists to pass mandatory GMO labeling laws in states across the country. Mandatory GMO labeling ballot measures were introduced in four states, but fortunately all were soundly rejected by the voters. Vermont’s legislature passed its own mandatory GMO labeling law that is set to take effect next July.
A patchwork approach to food labeling will dramatically slow interstate commerce as farmers and food producers are forced to adjust to differing standards. The resulting costs to food manufacturers and grocery bill price hikes for consumers will be significant. These laws would also increase consumer uncertainty as they are littered with carve outs and exemptions. Vermont’s law, for instance would lead to a can of vegetable soup being labeling while a can of vegetable beef soup would be exempt.
“The negative consequences of a 50 state patchwork of labeling laws were fully understood by members of Congress,” said Parker. “They acted so that the people they represent are not made victims of the extreme agenda of anti-GMO activists. Consumer choice, science and fact-based labeling won the day.”
Prior to the vote on final passage, the House defeated an amendment offered by Peter DeFazio. The defeat of the DeFazio mandatory labeling amendment was a resounding rebuttal of an anti-science agenda and a victory for consumer choice and transparency. In 2013, the Democrat-controlled Senate soundly defeated, by a 71-27 margin, a mandatory labeling amendment authored by Senator Bernie Sanders that was intended to shove the FDA out of the labeling space it has occupied for generations. Today, 70% of the House voted against another mandatory labeling amendment. Together, these votes show Congress has no appetite for mandatory and misleading and punitive labeling for safe food products in Congress. Since there is wide agreement a patchwork of state labeling laws will harm interstate commerce, it is time for members of House and Senate to come together behind the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act and give consumers the consistent national solution they deserve.
“The focus now turns to the U.S. Senate where there are already indications of solid bipartisan support,” Parker continued. “We look forward to engaging Senators in the weeks ahead and securing their support for this bipartisan legislation that will ensure people across the country continue to have access to consistent science-based standards for food labeling.”