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Politico reports that a coalition of food industry trade associations is joining together to lobby for federal GMO labeling laws, "calling for legislation that would require mandatory premarket approval of GMO food ingredients by FDA and grant authority to the agency to label products that raise safety concerns, set up a voluntary program for food companies to label foods that are GMO free, include GMO ingredients in a definition of 'natural' foods and preempt state labeling laws."

Running point on the effort, dubbed the “Coalition for Safe Affordable Food," is the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which has spent millions to defeat state GMO labeling laws. Also involved in the effort are the American Bakers Association, American Beverage Association, American Frozen Food Institute, National Corn Growers Association, the Biotechnology Industry Association, AACC International/American Phytopathological Society, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Seed Trade Association, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, Corn Refiners Association, Council for Responsible Nutrition, Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association, Global Cold Chain Alliance, International Dairy Foods Association, National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Confectioners Association, National Fisheries Institute, National Grain & Feed Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, National Restaurant Association, National Turkey Federation, North American Millers Association, Snack Food Association and the U.S. Beet Sugar Association.

The Associated Press story notes that "the effort is an attempt to head off state-by-state efforts to require mandatory labeling. Recent ballot initiatives in California and Washington state failed, but several state legislatures are considering labeling requirements, and opponents of engineered ingredients are aggressively pushing for new laws in several states.

"The move comes as consumers demand to know more about what's in their food. There's very little science that says genetically engineered foods are unsafe. But opponents say there's too much unknown about seeds that are altered in labs to have certain traits, and that consumers have a right to know if they are eating them. The seeds are engineered for a variety of reasons, many of them to resist herbicides or insects."

Pamela Bailey, president/CEO of GMA, said yesterday that the FDA "up to now has said that GMOs are safe, but we also recognize that some consumers want more information and companies might want to include GMO information, so we are asking the FDA to outline labeling standards companies can use voluntarily."

According to the Coalition, there is no specific legislation addressing the federal issue in the pipeline, but it is hoped that the breadth of its membership will be able to create some momentum. The recently passed Farm Bill did not address the GMO issue.
KC's View:
I don't particularly have a problem with a federal approach to GMO labeling, though I am considerably less persuaded that the backbones in Congress and at FDA will be able to withstand the lobbying barrage they are about to experience. I am very flexible about how legislation should be written, but I think that the interests of consumers need to be front and center if any of these efforts are to be successful. And if being able to label products with GMOs as being natural is the coalition's idea of a comprehensive approach to the issue, I remain dubious.