- DTN Headline News
USDA's Role in Biotech Labels
Friday, June 26, 2015 2:25PM CDT

By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The House Agriculture Committee Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee held a hearing Thursday that was clearly intended to emphasize the role that USDA can play in biotech labeling, a question that now is in the hands of the Food and Drug Administration.

The only witness was Craig Morris, deputy administrator of the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service Livestock and Seed Program, who provided an overview of AMS programs that facilitate the marketing of U.S. agricultural products.

But Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., the subcommittee chairman, noted at the end of the hearing that Morris showed that USDA has "the capability and resources to provide valuable oversight of these voluntary marketing claims."

Davis also noted that the Agriculture Committee will soon consider a substitute amendment to H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act originally authored by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. That bill, Davis said, "will bring clarity and stability to the marketplace through national uniformity regarding marketing claims for products grown using the latest agricultural production technologies."

The House Agriculture Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee jointly crafted the substitute amendment to the bill, which is "intended to enhance coordination between the FDA and USDA, strengthen confidence in the safety of genetically engineered foods, and provide additional transparency and consumer confidence through a public website listing non-regulated genetically engineered plants and petitions submitted to and determinations made by USDA and FDA," Davis said.

House Energy and Commerce last week held a hearing focused on the substitute amendment, Davis noted.

Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., the subcommittee ranking member, gave a more neutral opening statement.

"Within a relatively short time period, we have witnessed consumers rapidly move from having little interest in a diverse variety of products and where their food comes from to today's consumer seeing food as exciting with cooking now part of personal discovery," DelBene said.

"It is within this newly developed 'foodie' culture that U.S. production agriculture now finds itself," she added.

"Like most market evolutions, there is both good news and not-so-good news. The good news is food entrepreneurs, both producers and processors, have an increasingly diverse consumer base for which to tailor their products. The not-so-good news is an ever-growing and potentially confusing array of production, processing and questions."

"As the committee exercises its responsibility in the area of marketing and labeling claims across the board, but including labels related to genetically engineered crops, it's critical that we all have a full understanding of the expertise that exists within AMS should Congress choose to move forward with any sort of new label," DelBene said.

In his testimony, Morris noted that AMS has a process verified program (PVP) which provides agricultural businesses with third-party, objective verification of a particular standard or marketing claim.

But he also noted, "The claims on food products associated with PVPs, like all food labeling claims, fall under the jurisdiction of either USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."

"AMS' sole focus is auditing whether a subject firm followed the process it described in its PVP application," Morris said. "AMS approval of a PVP does not mean that the labeling of food produced using the process necessarily meets the regulatory requirements for food labeling enforced by FSIS and FDA."

Morris explained that AMS has approved a PVP for a company wishing to obtain third-party verification for a marketing claim that its products are 99.1% non-genetically engineered, which the company is using as a basis for labeling the product as "Non-GMO/GE Process Verified."

Under this new program, Morris said, AMS verifies that the processes and procedures are in place to support a claim that food-grade corn and soybeans sold under the program are at least 99.1% free of traits that indicate genetic engineering.

This means that after AMS approval, the company can use the USDA Process Verified shield on labels or marketing materials for food-grade soybeans and corn coming from the approved facility. These foods will not themselves be labeled for or sold directly to consumers.

But Morris told the subcommittee "it is important to point out what this program does not do."

"First, this does not establish an approved claim for food safety nor does it establish a standard for food safety.

"Second, this is not a USDA marketing claim standard. USDA has not established a standard for what merits a marketing claim concerning the presence or absence of genetically engineered components in food regulated by USDA.

"Moreover, such a food-labeling claim for plant-derived foods would fall within the regulatory purview of the FDA," he said.

Davis said in a concluding statement that, "It is clear from the testimony provided today that we have the tools and expertise through the Agricultural Marketing Service to provide consumers with the information they want in a manner that supports interstate commerce."

"I am confident that with the USDA's current process and the legislation under consideration, we can establish a national, uniform, and voluntary marketing approach that will benefit consumers."


blog iconDTN Blogs & Forums
DTN Market Matters Blog
Katie Micik
Markets Editor
Monday, June 29, 2015 6:06PM CDT
Monday, June 22, 2015 4:43PM CDT
Wednesday, June 17, 2015 7:46PM CDT
Technically Speaking
Darin Newsom
DTN Senior Analyst
Saturday, June 27, 2015 1:25PM CDT
Saturday, June 27, 2015 12:37PM CDT
Saturday, June 27, 2015 12:14PM CDT
Fundamentally Speaking
Joel Karlin
DTN Contributing Analyst
Monday, June 29, 2015 3:40PM CDT
Friday, June 26, 2015 12:24PM CDT
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 3:30PM CDT
DTN Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
Monday, June 29, 2015 10:06PM CDT
Friday, June 26, 2015 4:59PM CDT
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 7:24PM CDT
Minding Ag's Business
Marcia Taylor
DTN Executive Editor
Thursday, June 25, 2015 10:28PM CDT
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 7:46PM CDT
Monday, June 22, 2015 6:41PM CDT
DTN Ag Weather Forum
Bryce Anderson
DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst
Friday, June 26, 2015 6:37PM CDT
Thursday, June 25, 2015 3:57PM CDT
Friday, June 19, 2015 9:56PM CDT
DTN Production Blog
Pam Smith
Crops Technology Editor
Friday, June 19, 2015 7:19PM CDT
Friday, June 12, 2015 9:47PM CDT
Friday, June 5, 2015 6:11PM CDT
Harrington's Sort & Cull
John Harrington
DTN Livestock Analyst
Friday, June 26, 2015 8:56PM CDT
Friday, June 19, 2015 5:21PM CDT
Monday, June 15, 2015 9:27PM CDT
South America Calling
Alastair Stewart
South America Correspondent
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 3:33PM CDT
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 3:16PM CDT
Friday, June 19, 2015 6:50PM CDT
An Urban’s Rural View
Urban Lehner
Editor Emeritus
Monday, June 29, 2015 6:12PM CDT
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 12:19PM CDT
Friday, June 12, 2015 11:16AM CDT
Machinery Chatter
Jim Patrico
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Thursday, June 25, 2015 4:49PM CDT
Thursday, June 18, 2015 2:47PM CDT
Monday, June 15, 2015 1:54PM CDT
Canadian Markets
Cliff Jamieson
Canadian Grains Analyst
Monday, June 29, 2015 10:22PM CDT
Friday, June 26, 2015 9:47PM CDT
Thursday, June 25, 2015 9:51PM CDT
Editor’s Notebook
Greg D. Horstmeier
DTN Editor-in-Chief
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 8:58PM CDT
Tuesday, June 16, 2015 6:05PM CDT
Tuesday, June 9, 2015 7:54PM CDT
Copyright DTN. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.
Powered By DTN