Farm Bureau chief cites need for national GMO rules
By Lenore Sobota, Pantagraph
A voluntary national standard for labeling food products containing genetically modified organisms is needed to avoid chaos that would result from letting states set requirements, an agricultural leader and a congressman said Thursday.
A bill to do that has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives but a companion measure has stalled in the Senate. Meanwhile, a law on mandatory GMO labeling is set to take effect in Vermont on July 1.
Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert said allowing each state to set its own label laws “would be just basically utter chaos, confusion and a logistical nightmare for the manufacturers and food industry.”
Arguing that science has shown foods modified via biotechnology are safe, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, said, “This is a marketing issue. It is not a safety issue.”
Their comments came at a news conference at the Illinois Farm Bureau office on Towanda Avenue in Bloomington.
The legislation, S.2609, would amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require creation of a national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered foods. Similar to what already has been done for organic food labeling, it would create a process for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop regulations on what constitutes a “non-GMO” product.
The bill fell 12 votes short of the 60 needed to end debate and move the bill forward. Among those opposing the bill was U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Springfield.
Durbin spokeswoman Maria McElwain said Durbin supports a national GMO standard to avoid a patchwork approach. However she said Durbin joined Democratic colleagues in the procedural vote against the bill because he believes the bill does not have adequate transparency and disclosure.
Davis said of Durbin and others who blocked the bill, “They have chosen to side with activists who have admitted their goal is to stigmatize” bioengineered products.
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