retail news in context, analysis with attitude

In Minneapolis, the Star Tribune reports that Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the Republican Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, and Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the committee, say they have "agreed on what could become the first mandatory national standard for labeling foods that contain genetically modified organisms — better known as GMOs." The deal was reached just days before the first mandatory state GMO labeling law, in Vermont, which takes effect July 1.

According to the story, "The new Senate agreement requires foods from big companies to carry one of three types of GMO notices — text, a symbol or an electronic digital link. Small food manufacturers would also have the option of using telephone numbers or websites on packages ... The national standard still faces a Senate vote and agreement from the House of Representatives, which earlier this year voted for a food industry-backed national ban on mandatory on-package GMO labels."

Leslie Sarasin, president/CEO of the Food Marketing Institute, released statement saying that “FMI commends the bipartisan Roberts-Stabenow agreement on biotechnology labeling and hopes that all senators will vote in favor of the compromise. A national standard for GMO labeling is essential if we are to avoid the economic costs incurred by a patchwork of differing state laws. By preventing this patchwork, the Roberts-Stabenow agreement will avoid greater consumer confusion, allow efficiency, and enable the industry to proceed in a more orderly and reasonable fashion to provide consumers the information they want. We and the 800 other Coalition for Safe Affordable Food member organizations nationwide stand ready to do all we can to work for rapid passage of the agreement.”

Peter Larkin, president/CEO of the National Grocers Association (NGA), concurred: “NGA appreciates the leadership and bipartisan work done by Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow to reach an agreement that provides a national uniform labeling standard for foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.  Operating under a patchwork of state labeling laws is inefficient and unworkable, only creating major logistical complications for food distributors and consumer confusion in the marketplace. We strongly urge the Senate to immediately pass this measure.”

And Pamela Bailey, president/CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) said, “America’s food industry fully supports the disclosure provisions in this legislation. GMA members are committed to making available the product information that consumers want. We are pleased to see that the legislation enables transparency, clarity and consistency in disclosure and reflects the wide variety of ways that consumers will get this information about the foods they buy."
KC's View:
I'm sure there will be some folks who will complain that this does not go far enough, but as far as I'm concerned, the whole notion of mandatory labeling is something I've been arguing for ... and I'm glad to see it is in the agreement. I'm sure the devil will be in the details, and the legislative process could hurt the deal ... but I think this is a good starting point.

I've always favored a national approach ... I just didn't like a national approach that prevented states from having their own mandates, if the national approach included banning all mandatory GMO labels.