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Trade Associations Weigh in on the GMO Debate

July 17, 2013

NPA voices support for the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, while AHPA advocates for voluntary disclosure of the absence of GE and GMO ingredients.

The Natural Products Association (NPA) Board of Directors has endorsed the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients so consumers can make educated decisions about foods they buy. By endorsing the bill, NPA becomes the first and largest natural products industry trade association to back the legislation, giving it crucial support as Americans continue to call for stronger GMO labeling. NPA represents over 2,000 members accounting for more than 10,000 locations of retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products in the U.S. and abroad.
NPA’s endorsement of the bill comes just three months after the association called for all foods containing genetically modified organisms to be accurately labeled under a national uniform standard. The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in April. Co-sponsors of the bill include Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.
“Supporting this legislation is the next logical step for the Natural Products Association,” said NPA executive director and CEO John Shaw. “In the last few months, the association has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring consumers know what’s in their food. We feel strongly that this bill is in line with our guiding principles on GMO labeling, and that it will lead the country on the path toward transparency that Americans are demanding.”
The Silver Spring, MD-based organization the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), has also recently adopted a new policy regarding its stance on GE and GMO ingredients. Recently the association’s board unveiled a new policy to advocate for a federal regulation for voluntary disclosure of the absence of genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified organism (GMO) ingredients in food and dietary supplements. AHPA plans to work to enact this regulation through federal legislation or through rulemaking. 
According to AHPA president Michael McGuffin, “AHPA's members have diverse views when it comes to labeling products to disclose genetically engineered ingredients. The AHPA board's action signals support for the broadly expressed consumer interest in making informed purchase decisions when it comes to GE/GMO foods, while recognizing a ‘voluntary disclosure of absence’ approach as the best regulatory option to accomplish this.”
In adopting this policy, the AHPA board has expressed its view that a single federal regulation is more practical than a patchwork of state labeling requirements. AHPA reports that at least 25 states legislatures have considered this issue in just the past year, and asserts that while federal legislation has been introduced to require mandatory identification of food produced with genetic engineering, this legislation would largely rely on “guarantees” provided by ingredient suppliers. 
“It is possible that a voluntary program that motivates manufacturers to comply will provide more and better information to consumers than one based primarily on the promises of ingredient suppliers,” added Mr. McGuffin. 
This is not the first time the AHPA board has acted to address the labeling of products with genetically engineered (or modified) ingredients. In 2007, AHPA adopted a guidance policy that “supports labeling of consumer goods to identify any ingredients that are herbal raw agricultural products knowingly and intentionally cultivated with GMO technologies ... in a manner that assures that consumers are informed that the ingredient was cultivated with GMO technology.”
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