NCG Urges Senate Rejection of SAFLA in Wake of House Approval

Jul 27, 2015

National Co+op Grocers (NCG) today is expressing its disappointment in the U.S. House of Representatives’ Thursday approval of The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599), which has been dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or “DARK,” Act by consumer advocacy groups. In addition, NCG urges the Senate to reject any forthcoming companion to the House legislation, which aims to block mandatory GMO labeling at the state and national levels.

NCG supports consumers’ right to information, including sufficient product labeling, so that they can make their own informed food choices – whereas The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act would, if passed by Congress, deny consumers’ right to know what is in their food. NCG strongly opposes the House version of the legislation because it:

  1. Lacks transparency. H.R. 1599 essentially codifies the status quo of voluntary labeling. In the 14 years since the FDA has allowed companies to voluntarily label foods that have been produced using genetic engineering, no single company has labeled them as such. Only mandatory labeling fulfills consumer demand for transparency regarding GMOs.
  2. Undermines public will. Multiple surveys have shown that the majority of Americans, regardless of age, income, education, or party affiliation, want GMO foods to be labeled. H.R. 1599 nullifies GMO labeling laws that are already on the books in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine. Furthermore, the bill preempts states by blocking any future state legislation or ballot initiatives that would require GMO labeling. While NCG favors a national solution (such as the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act which was introduced earlier this year), we also support states’ efforts in the absence of federally regulated mandatory labeling.
  3. Heightens consumer confusion. Language in the bill would allow food companies to continue to make “natural” claims on foods produced using genetic engineering and would also block state efforts to protect consumers from misleading “natural” claims. Because most consumers believe that “natural” foods are produced without genetically engineered ingredients, H.R. 1599 only perpetuates consumer confusion in the marketplace.

Following a floor debate in which many lawmakers spoke out against the bill, the House passed H.R. 1599 with 275 representatives voting in favor and 150 opposed. While the Senate has yet to introduce a companion to the House version, NCG is preemptively calling on the Senate to reject any bill that would similarly block mandatory GMO labeling.

“What this bill essentially says is that it is okay to withhold information from American consumers because they cannot be trusted to make their own decisions in the grocery aisle,” said Robynn Shrader, chief executive officer, NCG. “We thank the 150 U.S. Representatives who stood up for the American public’s call for transparency by voting ‘no’ on H.R. 1599 and we urge the U.S. Senate to follow their lead by rejecting this disingenuous bill.”

“Over 1.4 million people have petitioned the FDA in support of mandatory GMO labeling, more than any other petition in FDA’s history,” Shrader added, “Yet, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act ignores consumers’ need for this information, and instead creates significant new barriers to a national, mandatory GMO labeling system.”

“This vote is a reminder of how out of touch a majority of members in the House of Representatives are with the values and needs of the American public,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs at Center for Food Safety. “Over a million Americans emailed or called their Representative urging them to oppose this anti-labeling bill, but corporate interests won out. Now it’s the Senate's chance to preserve the rights of Americans and stand up for local democracy, and we trust that they’ll do what’s right.”

About NCG

National Co+op Grocers (NCG), founded in 1999, is a business services cooperative for retail food co-ops located throughout the United States. NCG helps unify food co-ops in order to optimize operational and marketing resources, strengthen purchasing power, and ultimately offer more value to natural food co-op owners and shoppers everywhere. Our 143 member and associate co-ops operate more than 190 storefronts in 38 states with combined annual sales over $1.7 billion. NCG is a winner of the dotCoop Global Awards for Cooperative Excellence and a Certified B Corporation. Find a map of NCG member and associate co-ops. To learn more about co-ops, visit www.strongertogether.coop.

Media inquiries may be directed to Eric Davis (eric@harvest-pr.com; 612-424-7545).