WASHINGTON – A coalition of food and agriculture stakeholders continued to push for a national standard for labeling foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

Members of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CSAF) converged on Capitol Hill last week to urge Congress to pass a GMO labeling standard. The legislative “fly-in” included farming groups, co-ops, seed producers and food companies. CSAF said the group had more than 140 meetings on Capitol Hill.

Organizations representing US soybean farmers have been supportive of a national standard. The Missouri Soybean Association reports that GMOs help soybean farmers grow more crops on less land using fewer pesticides and less water while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014, 93 percent of the corn, 91 percent of the soybeans and 96 percent of the cotton grown in Missouri were genetically modified, according to the association.

“Soybeans are a $2 billion industry in Missouri and different state GMO labeling mandates would hurt hardworking farmers across that state,” said Gary Wheeler, executive director of the Missouri Soybean Association. “As I explained to members of the US Senate on Wednesday, inconsistent state labels would wreak havoc on Missouri farms. We need Congress to pass a reasonable solution that provides transparency and consistency for farmers and consumers.”

In July, the House Committee on Agriculture approved the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. It includes a provision for national, voluntary non-GMO labeling. The US Dept. of Agriculture would accredit the certification process for the voluntary labeling program. Supporters of the bill argue that a national standard is preferable to a potential patchwork of labeling laws enacted at the state level.

Opponents of the bill, who call it the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know Act) say a national standard preempts the right of state governments to pass their own laws governing GMO food labeling while limiting the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to compel labeling of such foods.