The House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee on Thursday considered issues surrounding the bipartisan GMO labeling legislation introduced earlier this year, welcoming five panelists to discuss implications of such a law on consumers and commerce.
The bill calls for a GMO labeling standard that is science-based and is consistent in all 50 states. The bill seeks to increase coordination between the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on labeling decisions and would establish a GMO-free certification program for consumers who choose GMO-free foods.
The panel testifying during the hearing included: Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Blagden; Office of the Vermont Attorney General Assistant Attorney General Todd W. Daloz; Growmark, Inc. Chairman of the Board and President John Reifsteck; Center for Science in the Public Interest Biotechnology Project Director Gregory Jaffe; and Information Technology & Innovation Foundation Senior Fellow L. Val Giddings.
Reifsteck, who represented the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, along with Growmark, said he sees biotech benefits daily.
"Biotechnology provides substantial benefits to producers, the environment and consumers. To reverse course now would wreak havoc among America's agriculture industry," he continued. "Make no mistake, that is what a patchwork of biotech labeling laws would be—an unworkable step backwards."
Part of the discussion fell on labeling demand and why so many consumers are increasingly focused on food's origins and "what's in their food." Giddings said it's an issue of connection.
"There are very few issues in our lives to which we are more emotionally attached than food," Giddings said, "and the idea of somebody messing around with our food supply is inherently one of concern."
But, Giddings noted, consumer concern may have to do with marketing. "There is a very well-funding campaign of special interests who have adopted raising unwarranted fears in this way as their marketing tactic through which they seek to expand their market share."
Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., sponsor of the GMO labeling legislation, said in a statement regarding the hearing that his bill would provide clarity for consumers.
"This bill helps to provide clarity in food labeling so consumers, states, and food producers have a consistent framework, while supporting innovation that helps keep the price of food affordable here in America and help us to ensure that we can feed a rapidly growing world," he said.
Catch a full replay of the hearing on the Energy and Commerce Committee website.
Continued reading: Lawmakers Discuss Merits of National GMO Labeling in Hearing