The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) board of trustees acted at its meeting earlier this month to adopt a position to oppose labeling of foods that contain GMO ingredients as "natural" or with any similar term and to oppose inclusion of a federal preemption provision in any GMO legislation that may be offered in the U.S. Congress, whether for mandatory or voluntary labeling.
"As more legislation is proposed to label GMO-derived foods, the herbal and natural products industry must continue to advocate for provisions that benefit consumers and that are also practical in the current legislative environment," said AHPA President Michael McGuffin.
AHPA adopted a position over a decade ago to support consumers' right to be informed on issues that affect their purchasing decisions, including the use of GMO ingredients in the foods they purchase and consume. Since 2013, AHPA has advocated for establishment of a federal regulation for voluntary disclosure of absence of GMO ingredients, and is currently examining the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) as a model for such a federal standard.
"The current conflict between advocates and opponents of mandatory GMO labeling has led to a standstill in the U.S. Congress," commented McGuffin. "A federal standard modeled after OFPA—a very successful voluntary labeling law without a federal preemption clause—would meet consumer demand to be able to ensure that the products they actually use are free of GMO ingredients, and would not obstruct individual states from establishing their own laws if their citizens also want information on other products."
At the federal level, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., have reintroduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-To-Know Act to create a federal mandate to label foods that contain GMO ingredients. Representative Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., is expected this week to reintroduce the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act which, when initially offered last year, would have instructed FDA to create a voluntary federal GMO and/or non-GMO labeling standard and would have also prevented states from establishing their own labeling requirements.
At the state level, ballot initiatives in Oregon and Colorado to mandate labeling of products with GMO ingredients barely failed last fall. Similar legislation is reportedly under consideration in numerous states' current legislative sessions. Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to stop Vermont's mandatory GMO labeling initiative has not yet been adjudicated.