The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a biotechnology hearing for the first time in 10 years Wednesday to discuss the future of food technology as the industry responds to increased demand, production challenges and consumers’ calls for a safe and transparent food supply.
Specifically, the committee discussed the safety of food derived from genetically modified organisms and the possibility of a uniform national labeling standard.
“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 U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, committee chairman. “Science has come a long way in those 10 years, and we recognize those beneficial advances today.”
This Senate hearing follows July passage by the House of Representatives of a bipartisan bill creating a national labeling standard and a GMO-free certification program that will provide those consumers who wish to purchase products that do not contain GMOs with a reliable means of doing so.
The US House of Representatives passed the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015” by a vote of 275-150. The bill, which has received the support of the food industry, preempts state-level efforts to create mandatory GMO labeling laws by granting FDA authority to establish a national standard label for food and beverage products containing genetically modified ingredients.
Food industry groups, who argue a patchwork of state labeling laws would lead to consumer confusion and higher product costs, urged the Senate to take action on food labeling legislation. Vermont is currently the only state with a law requiring labels for food containing GMO ingredients. That law is scheduled to take effect in July 2016, though it is being challenged by the food industry.
“The Senate Agriculture hearing reaffirmed the broad consensus among scientists and regulators that GMOs are safe and highlighted the real world negative impacts a patchwork of state labeling mandates will have on farmers, businesses and consumers,” said Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “Action by Congress is urgently needed this year to pass a national, uniform labeling standard.”