Column: We need a voluntary food labeling standard
Eight years after the Great Recession, Americans are living through the slowest economic recovery in U.S. history. When adjusted to 2014 dollars, today’s workers are making nearly the same as a worker in 1999 while more of their paychecks are going toward the goods and services they purchase.
That is why hard-working Michigan families cannot afford to see an increase in their grocery bills.
But that is exactly what will happen if the U.S. Senate fails to advance legislation that would prevent food prices from going up because of labeling costs.
If the Senate does not pass the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, food producers across the country will face costs and pass them along to shoppers in every aisle of the grocery store. Michigan families cannot afford to pay another $1,050 per year because of inaction.
This federal legislation is needed because Vermont is imposing a labeling standard on food producers that would raise their costs across America. Vermont’s law is driven by fear of genetically engineered food and it is not based on sound science.
Nearly 75 percent of processed food in America contains ingredients that have been genetically modified. But a recent report from the National Academies of Science found that genetically engineered food has no negative impact on human health. The report was based on decades of studies and research.
Complicating the issue of labeling is the fact that other states have or are prepared to pass their own labeling laws. This will drive up the cost of food as producers would potentially need to label and package food 50 different ways to comply with 50 different state laws.
The House of Representatives, where I am a member of the Agriculture Committee, has acted to provide consumers and food producers with one national standard they can easily identify in the grocery aisles. Now, the Senate should follow suit to ensure the cost of food does not increase for hard-working American taxpayers.
The House bill protects consumers from the price increases that would occur if producers have to raise prices to comply with 50 different labeling and packaging standards while giving shoppers a uniform standard to look for in the grocery store.
Some companies have already announced plans to voluntarily label their products nationwide. This bill allows them to use a nationwide standard that reduces production costs and provides consumers the transparency they seek when choosing food for their families.
Small food producers and family farms, like many here in Michigan, can continue to operate without heavy-handed regulations from the government forcing them to increase their costs. Along with their customers, they can decide what packing and labeling best suits their needs.
A voluntary, nationwide standard gives consumers a uniform label to look for while they shop, and it gives food producers the flexibility they need in the marketplace.
The House has acted to keep food costs low for hard-working Michigan families. It’s time for the Senate to pass a voluntary, nationwide standard before your prices go up at the grocery store.
U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar represents Michigan’s 4th congressional district.