ASA Positions

  • ASA supports timely deregulation of new biotech traits by APHIS based solely on sound science.
  • ASA supports legislation requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to allow the production and marketing of crops with traits that have been deregulated by APHIS pending resolution of court decisions that otherwise would impede commercialization.
  • ASA supports legislation to clarify that, in deregulating new biotech traits, APHIS need take into account only the criteria established under the Plant Protection Act.
  • ASA is working to address concerns with the implementation of the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED).
  • ASA supports negotiation of a bilateral agreement between the EU and U.S. that would establish an aggregate approach for certifying U.S. compliance with the sustainable land use requirements of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

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Learn more about biotechnology from the Biotechnology Industry Organization.


Learn more about Seed Innovation here allows consumers to research and verify the safety, prevalence and benefits of genetically modified food ingredients by visiting online information posted by credible and independent sources, including governmental food safety agencies, medical and health organizations, news organizations, food safety experts and non-governmental organizations.

Issues Background

Since the introduction of biotech crops in 1996, the Food and Drug Administration has consistently found that these commodities are safe, and that food products containing biotech ingredients are not required to be labeled.  Unfortunately, anti-biotech activists have worked to require biotech labels on these foods, not only at the national level but at the state and local levels as well.  In 2013, they were successful in enacting a law in Vermont that would require labels on all packaged food except those containing at least three percent of meat, by weight.  The Vermont law became effective on July 1, 2016, and will be enforced on January 1, 2017.

While Vermont is one of the smallest states with less than two percent of the U.S. population, its labeling law is seen by national food manufacturing companies as a mandate for products sold nationwide.  The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) created the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food (CFSAF) in 2014 to support enactment of federal legislation to preempt Vermont and other state and local biotech labeling laws and establish a national biotech labeling standard.  The CFSAF was successful in passing a bill with voluntary labeling standards in the House in 2015 and is supporting the mandatory labeling bill authored by Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow in the Senate.  If it is approved, the bill will be considered soon thereafter by the House.  President Obama has indicated he would sign the Senate bill it into law.

In addition to preempting state, county and municipal biotech labeling requirements, the Senate bill establishes a national biotech labeling standard under which food companies will be required to disclose whether a product contains or may contain biotech ingredients using any of three options:  language on the package, an on-pack symbol to be developed by USDA, or electronic disclosure.  The latter includes use of a QR or bar code or the SmartLabel developed by GMA.  Smaller companies will be able to use 800 phone numbers or direct consumers to their websites.  Very small companies will be exempt from the labeling requirements.

Meat, milk and eggs will not be required to be labeled.  For processed foods that contain meat, milk or eggs, labeling will not be required if one of these products is the principal ingredient or, when a liquid such as broth or water is the principal ingredient, the second most prominent ingredient.  All other processed foods that contain ingredients derived from biotech commodities, including soybean oil, corn starch, etc., will be required to be disclose biotech content.

There has been criticism of the CFSAF and other supporters of the Senate bill for agreeing to accept mandatory biotech disclosure rather than insist on the voluntary approach adopted by the House.  It is important to remember that a voluntary bill failed in the Senate in March, and that the consequence of having no bill would be mandatory on-pack biotech labeling under the Vermont law.  That would trigger nationwide labeling of all packaged foods or, more likely, wholesale efforts by food companies to reformulate their branded products away from biotech ingredients to avoid having to label them.  This would take some time but, in one or two years, reformulation would drive biotech ingredients and the biotech crops from which they are produced out of the market.  This would be a catastrophe that neither ASA nor all of production agriculture can risk occurring.

Download ASA Position Paper on Biotechnology
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