The comments were in regard to its proposed rule to implement the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS).
The letter accompanying the comments noted, “As farmers, we understand and support the consumer’s desire to know what is in their food. We are proud of the methods and technology we use to deliver a safe and affordable product to the consumer while developing ways to reduce impacts on the environment.” The letter went on to say that biotechnology allows farmers to reduce inputs like water, fertilizer, and pesticides.
The NBFDS headed off a potentially chaotic situation of having a patchwork of conflicting BE labeling requirements on grocery products at the state level that would have been confusing to consumers and cumbersome and costly for processors and food companies. ASA strongly supported enactment of the law establishing the standard, which preempts individual state labeling laws like that in Vermont.
While ASA’s comments commend AMS for trying to arbitrate competing views by offering several options for the final rule, they urge USDA to adhere to the statutory definition of bioengineering, which requires mandatory labeling of foods that, “contain genetic material modified through transgenic biotechnology and exempts products that could be developed through conventional breeding techniques or found in nature.” ASA further argues that USDA should adopt five percent as the threshold for the presence of bioengineered content required to trigger mandatory disclosure and emphasized that the purpose of the law is to establish a marketing mechanism, not a food safety standard, since foods produced with bioengineering have already been found to be safe.
ASA President and soybean grower John Heisdorffer from Keota, Iowa, says, “Farmers certainly understand people wanting to know where their food comes from and what is in it –we’re consumers, too. That is why we’re always in search of and support new methods and new technologies that allow us to produce safe, affordable products that decrease environmental impacts. Biotechnology is a great example, and more than 90 percent of U.S. soybeans grown today use this technology.”
In addition to its comments to AMS, ASA is a member of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, which has filed joint comments on its members’ behalf.