Republican or Democrat, most people in Minnesota will agree that public policy decisions should be made based upon sound science rather than hyperbole and emotion.
Unfortunately that does not seem to be the case when it comes to foods produced utilizing advanced agricultural technologies, referred to by some as food from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A number of states either have considered, or are considering, imposing labeling mandates for all food containing GMOs. Truth be told, these labels would be misleading, because they would create a baseless stigma around GMOs.
Labeling would have serious consequences for Minnesota agriculture and consumers and our state’s economy. In particular, small farmers could not afford to comply with the regulations that would come with GMO labeling and families would need to pay more for food because state mandates would force food producers to create multiple supply chains to comply with different regulations.
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act is a step in the right direction and would create a uniform national program governing the premarket review and labeling of GMOs. It would require the Food and Drug Administration to conduct a safety review of all new plant varieties used for genetically engineered food before those foods are introduced into commerce, as well as create a new legal framework that would govern the use of label claims regarding either the absence of, or use of, GMO food or food ingredients. Not only would this legislation benefit Minnesota farmers but consumers.
A state-by-state approach, however, could lead to higher prices for consumers as producers and processors have to address different rules across different states.
The world continues to benefit from investments made by the U.S. to ensure the safety of its food system – benefits which have made the world a more food secure place than it has ever been in history. To the extent GMO labeling is instituted, it should not be done in a patchwork fashion and a federal standard that reflects a market-based solution is far preferable. Voluntary labeling allows competition and consumer demand to determine the solution.
Dave Ladd is a frequent guest commentator regarding public policy and the political environment. His company, RDL & Associates, assists clients in achieving their legislative and policy objectives via strategic communications, message development and interaction with elected officials.