Dear Senators Cochran and Leahy and Representatives Frelinghuysen and Lowey,
As representatives of the U.S. food value chain, we urge you to reject any appropriations provision that could undermine or conflict with the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard Act (the Disclosure Act or the Act). Congress passed the Disclosure Act last year with overwhelming bipartisan support, and President Obama signed it into law. The Act provides the framework for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide consumers with consistent, truthful, and non-misleading information they may wish to have about their food in a way that does not stigmatize the use of technology to produce that food. USDA is currently implementing the Disclosure Act through rulemaking.
When considering the Disclosure Act, Congress was explicit that the Act must prevent a patchwork of bioengineered food disclosure regulations, as the existence of such would likely cause widespread consumer confusion. Consequently, Congress set the definition of “bioengineered” food, thus establishing the scope of the uniform mandatory disclosure standard. Those foods that meet the definition of a “bioengineered food” fall within the uniform disclosure mandate. The Act sets out a number of options for compliance and recognizes the 30-plus years of proven safety of bioengineering in food and agriculture.
It is important for Congress to fully support the framework set out in the Disclosure Act and the authority vested in USDA to implement that framework. To do that, Congress must reject any attempts to undermine the Act. We are extremely concerned that Section 757 of the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2018 Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act would do just that. The proposed provision would require a separate and conflicting mandated label for a specific bioengineered food product that is already covered by the Disclosure Act. If this provision becomes law, it will undermine the congressionally-mandated USDA uniform disclosure standard and generate consumer confusion as the proposed FDA label would mandate different disclosure language than that required by the Disclosure Act. Consumers would likely be left wondering as to the differences in disclosures.
As you work over the next few weeks to finalize the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations process, we ask that you exclude this harmful bioengineered food labeling provision from any final bill. At the same time, we urge your committee to provide necessary resources for the USDA to implement the Disclosure Act in a timely way.
Agricultural Retailers Association
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Feed Industry Association
American Seed Trade Association
American Soybean Association
Biotechnology Innovation Organization
Can Manufacturers Institute
Corn Refiners Association
Enzyme Technical Association
Independent Bakers Association
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
National Association of Wheat Growers
National Black Growers Council
National Corn Growers Association
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Grain and Feed Association
National Milk Producers Federation
National Oilseed Processors Association
National Potato Council
National Renderers Association
National Turkey Federation
North American Meat Institute
North American Millers' Association
U.S. Canola Association
U.S. Chamber of Commerce