Lobbyist: GMO coalition wants labeling regulations done on time
DANA POINT, Calif. — The coalition of farm and agribusiness groups that backed the law requiring mandatory disclosure of biotech ingredients in food, which Congress passed last year, wants the Trump administration to finish writing the rule for that law by July 24, 2018 — the date set by Congress, a prominent lobbyist said in Dana Point, Calif., last week.
“By July 24, 2018, the law must be fully implemented and enforced. We have 18 months to see our way through the regulatory process,” said Tyson Redpath of the Russell Group, which coordinated the relations between the farm and agribusiness groups that backed a federal law to avoid passage of a range of state laws with differing labeling requirements.
While many agribusiness executives and farm leaders like the Trump administration’s plans for deregulation, “the coalition that advocated for the legislation has been clear with the Trump transition team that we want this to be a high priority,” Redpath said.
He acknowledged that meeting the deadline will be a challenge because Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s nominee for agriculture secretary, has not been confirmed yet. But Redpath said he hopes there will be a notice of proposed rulemaking sometime this spring or summer, followed by a public comment period and a final rule next summer.
In addition, the coalition believes there cannot be many exemptions to the law if it is to have credibility with consumers, Redpath added.
Beet sugar producers are rumored to be considering asking for an exemption because sugar does not contain any remnants of the genetically modified seed that growers use. Redpath said, “The question of exemption is certainly one for this industry.“
Other sweeteners or vegetable oil producers might also ask for an exemption, he said: “If one is granted an exemption, others will seek it. If they are all granted an exemption, that goes to the integrity of the legislation.”
He added, “You take out sweeteners and vegetable oils — that is a high percentage of ingredients. What does that say to the activists?”
Redpath said his wife and others “want the food industry to come clean.” They say, “Let me make the decision,” Redpath said.
Redpath added that his wife asks, “‘Why do labels have to read like a chemistry assignment?’ I have never had a really good response. Ninety percent of consumers believe that recognized ingredients are healthier.”
“I am a Whole Foods Republican,” Redpath said. “My wife could not be more zealous in terms of her desire to know exactly everything in her food. For her and our three children, it is the last thing we can control in this spastic life we lead.”
No matter how the rule is written, Redpath said he foresees legal action against it. Just Label It, the organization that expressed dissatisfaction with the bill that Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed, won’t find the disclosure adequate and there will be lawsuits against any exemptions that are included, Redpath predicted.
“It won’t make people happy,” he said. “There are numerous groups waiting to force this issue in a court of law and court of public opinion.” ❖
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