Thursday, July 14, 2016

Floor Statement by Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson S.764



--As Prepared for Delivery--

“I thank the gentleman. I yield myself such time as I may consume

“Mr. Speaker, the bill we are considering today, S.764, recognizes consumers’ demand to know more about their food by directing USDA to create a national, mandatory genetically engineered food labeling program.

“My colleagues may remember that almost a year ago this chamber passed legislation to establish a voluntary labeling program. I still believe a voluntary label is best but, frankly, if we are going to address this issue we need to work with the Senate and this is the compromise that was reached.

“Science tells us that foods and ingredients from GE crops are safe to eat. This technology allows farmers to protect natural resources and provide an abundant food supply. Unfortunately there is a lot of public confusion around these issues, but labeling products is really more about marketing than any safety concerns.

“This legislation is needed to avoid a situation where 50 states set up 50 different labels, which would only create confusion for consumers, farmers and food companies. News reports indicate that Vermont’s labeling law, which went into effect July 1, has already led to the loss of some 3,000 products from store shelves.

“This legislation would rectify this problem while also addressing the law’s shortcomings. For example, the Vermont law exempts processed food products containing meat from labeling. So cheese pizza would be labeled but pepperoni pizza would not. That doesn’t make sense. S. 764 closes this loophole, requiring an additional 25,000 processed food products to meet new labeling requirements.

“I am also pleased that USDA will be responsible for implementing and enforcing this program. They have the expertise to do this type of labeling as evidenced by the successful National Organic Program.

“I would also note that S.764 received strong bipartisan support in the Senate and more than 1,000 farm and food organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, Grocery Manufacturers Association and Organic Trade Association, have all called for its passage.

“In closing, Mr. Speaker, I believe this is a good compromise. It’s another example of what the Agriculture Committee has consistently done so well. No one gets everything they want but, at the end of the day, I believe this bill will provide the transparency consumers crave while, at the same time, allow continued innovation in food production.

“I urge my colleagues to vote yes and I reserve the balance of my time.”