Today, President Obama signed into law bipartisan legislation (S. 764) that will establish a mandatory federal standard for the labeling of food and beverage products that contain ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMO). The bill was sent to the president for his signature after the House passed the bill on July 14. The Senate passed the bill on July 7.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) supported S. 764 as amended and praises the leadership of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in crafting the compromise bill. Before votes in the Senate and House, the NAM sent a key-vote letter in support of the measure and issued action alerts that enable individuals to contact lawmakers directly.
Importantly, the law preempts state or local laws on GMO labeling for human and animal food and for seeds. The food and beverage supply chain is highly complex, and without a national standard, manufacturers and their suppliers were facing myriad conflicting state standards that would harm the ability of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and farmers to produce and transport agricultural and food products efficiently. In addition to preemption, the new law accomplishes the following:
- Directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a mandatory national standard for GMO labeling within two years and provides the agency the authority to establish a minimal amount of GMO substance within a product for disclosure to be required;
- Prohibits any requirement that animal products be labeled GMO solely because the animal consumed GMO feed;
- Allows food and beverage manufacturers flexibility in disclosing GMO ingredients on a label through one of the following methods: text or symbol indicating the presence of a GMO ingredient; or an electronic/digital link (e.g., QR codes), which must include explanatory text and a telephone number;
- Provides small food manufacturers one additional year to comply after the national standard takes effect, along with additional labeling disclosure options;
- Exempts “very small food manufacturers” from disclosure requirements; and
- Prohibits a company from making a “non-GMO” claim solely because the food is not GMO but preserves the ability for organic foods to be labeled “non-GMO” or similarly.
Food and beverage manufacturing accounts for 1.704 million jobs in the United States and is critical to the success of the federal government’s domestic and global feeding programs, including SNAP, school nutrition, WIC and direct U.S. foreign food aid. The food and beverage industry does more to combat hunger and malnutrition in the United States than anyone else does, contributing billions of dollars every year in food and cash to fight hunger and malnutrition.
Biotechnology has fostered a revolution in American agriculture that has benefitted consumers in the United States and around the world. GMOs enable America’s food producers to more efficiently use resources and allow farmers to withstand crippling droughts and ward off disease or pestilence while reducing their use of pesticides and chemicals.