Texas Agriculture April 15, 2016 : Page 6

Vermont labeling law will affect Texas, nation By Jessica Domel News Editor A new law in a small state will have a big impact on farmers, ranch-ers, businesses and food manufactur-ers across the nation. Vermont’s ge-netically modified organism (GMO) labeling law, the first of its kind in the nation, is set to take effect July 1, un-less preempted by a new, federal law. In Vermont, dairy, meat and maple syrup are exempt from the labeling law, which would require GMO prod-ucts to be labeled with: “This product comes from genetically modified in-gredients.” When presented with Vermont’s law, California rejected it as mislead-ing. Other states are considering their own version of the laws, ex-empting different products. “That’s really going to create havoc on interstate commerce,” Walmsley said. Not only will it create havoc, it will also be costly. Two years ago, a Cornell study estimated the cost of a patchwork of GMO labeling laws at an additional $500 per year for a family of four. A more recent study from the Corn Refiners Association estimates those costs to be over $1,000 more a year for a family of four. “I would argue, if we keep going on the path we’re going, it’s go-ing to be a lot higher than that—especially if you’re talking about reformulation and lost ag productivity,” Walmsley said. The cost will be even higher to farmers and ranchers if the manda-tory labeling prompts companies to stop using genetically modified ingre-dients altogether. “There are groups on record saying they want the government to force a label on these products, which obvi-ously raises concerns for consumers,” Walmsley said. “They’ll ask, ‘Why is this being labeled when there’s no health or safety concern?’ Then they want to use that as a target to go after these companies to put public pressure on them to reformulate.” Reformulation would cost time, money and would stifle agricultural productivity. “You look at the challenges fac-ing us—whether it’s what Mother Nature throws at us or the moral imperative to feed 9.5 billion people by 2050—and you’re talking about a huge production change,” Walmsley said. “Obviously, these companies won’t be able to reformulate imme-diately. If you look at corn, soybeans, cotton and the other genetically en-gineered crops, over 90 percent of the crops grown today are biotech.” Without biotech seeds, the major-ity of farmers would have to resort to a different way of growing and mak-ing a living. “You’re taking something that ob-viously provides benefits to agricul-ture that our members have adopted and taking that choice away. You’ve gone from where we see the benefits of reduced pesticide use, reduced die-sel use because of reduced tillage and quality of life issues because you’re not having to use harmful other pes-ticides,” Walmsley said. “We’ve got more benign herbicides like Round-up and other things. Those become less attractive. You lose that because you’re not having a tool in the toolbox, because nobody’s going to buy it or it’s depressed to the point where you can’t afford to grow it because there’s just not a market out there for it.” Even if companies don’t reformu-late their products to non-biotech ingredients, mandatory labeling of GMOs can cause consumers unnec-essary concern as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only labels (See Labeling, page 19) $YRLGLQJDYLDQÁXLQ EDFN\DUGSRXOWU\ÁRFNV By Shala Watson Public Relations Intern Backyard poultry operations in Texas are just as susceptible to avi-an influenza as commercial poultry operations. Officials hope the tens of thousands of backyard operators in the state remain vigilant with their biosecurity efforts. The highly pathogenic avian in-fluenza (HPAI) is an extremely in-fectious and highly fatal disease. The virus can be spread by contam-inated manure, equipment, rodents, insects, vehicles and by clothing and shoes. Once established, the disease can spread rapidly from flock to flock. According to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), just one gram of contaminated manure can contain enough virus to infect 1 million birds. Last year’s outbreak in the Mid-west was the largest to date, accord-ing to Texas A&M AgriLife Exten-sion Service’s Avian Influenza and Biosecurity Practices publication. Biosecurity efforts and diligent maintenance by the Texas Animal Health Commission helped the Lone Star State escape the out-break, according to the commis-sion’s Public Information Officer Thomas Swafford. But that doesn’t mean Texas isn’t vulnerable. “They are just small operations from four to 10 chickens. A lot of times people are usually just rais-ing them for eggs so we just want to make sure people are in the know and they’re educated on how to take care of their chickens properly,” Swafford said. And all domestic poultry are sus-ceptible to the disease. As migra-tory birds travel this spring, there’s an increased risk for avian flu. TAHC officials encourage back-yard poultry operators to take extra precautions. Limiting exposure to wild birds and avoiding sharing cages, coops and equipment with others can help minimize chances of avian flu. For more information on biosecu-rity, visit TAHC’s website at www. tahc.texas.gov. This is one possible GMO label being considered by a national food company. “The harm is being done as far as Vermont dictating labels,” Andrew Walmsley, director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bu-reau Federation (AFBF), said. “We know this will embolden other states who will go forward with their own type of mandatory labeling, which will obviously complicate the supply chain and impede interstate commerce, re-sulting in increased costs to both farm-ers and consumers.” To get a jump-start on its packag-ing for when the law goes into effect, companies like Campbell’s, ConAgra, General Mills and others have al-ready begun to label their products in accordance with Vermont’s law. The problem arises when differ-ent states enact similar, but differing, GMO labeling laws. 6 A PRIL 15, 2016

Vermont Labeling Law Will Affect Texas, Nation

Jessica Domel

A new law in a small state will have a big impact on farmers, ranchers, businesses and food manufacturers across the nation. Vermont’s genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling law, the first of its kind in the nation, is set to take effect July 1, unless preempted by a new, federal law.

“The harm is being done as far as Vermont dictating labels,” Andrew Walmsley, director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), said. “We know this will embolden other states who will go forward with their own type of mandatory labeling, which will obviously complicate the supply chain and impede interstate commerce, resulting in increased costs to both farmers and consumers.”

To get a jump-start on its packaging for when the law goes into effect, companies like Campbell’s, ConAgra, General Mills and others have already begun to label their products in accordance with Vermont’s law.

The problem arises when different states enact similar, but differing, GMO labeling laws.

In Vermont, dairy, meat and maple syrup are exempt from the labeling law, which would require GMO products to be labeled with: “This product comes from genetically modified ingredients.”

When presented with Vermont’s law, California rejected it as misleading. Other states are considering their own version of the laws, exempting different products.

“That’s really going to create havoc on interstate commerce,” Walmsley said.

Not only will it create havoc, it will also be costly.

Two years ago, a Cornell study estimated the cost of a patchwork of GMO labeling laws at an additional $500 per year for a family of four. A more recent study from the Corn Refiners Association estimates those costs to be over $1,000 more a year for a family of four.

“I would argue, if we keep going on the path we’re going, it’s going to be a lot higher than that—especially if you’re talking about reformulation and lost ag productivity,” Walmsley said.

The cost will be even higher to farmers and ranchers if the mandatory labeling prompts companies to stop using genetically modified ingredients altogether.

“There are groups on record saying they want the government to force a label on these products, which obviously raises concerns for consumers,” Walmsley said. “They’ll ask, ‘Why is this being labeled when there’s no health or safety concern?’ Then they want to use that as a target to go after these companies to put public pressure on them to reformulate.”

Reformulation would cost time, money and would stifle agricultural productivity.

“You look at the challenges facing us—whether it’s what Mother Nature throws at us or the moral imperative to feed 9.5 billion people by 2050—and you’re talking about a huge production change,” Walmsley said. “Obviously, these companies won’t be able to reformulate immediately. If you look at corn, soybeans, cotton and the other genetically engineered crops, over 90 percent of the crops grown today are biotech.”

Without biotech seeds, the majority of farmers would have to resort to a different way of growing and making a living.

“You’re taking something that obviously provides benefits to agriculture that our members have adopted and taking that choice away. You’ve gone from where we see the benefits of reduced pesticide use, reduced diesel use because of reduced tillage and quality of life issues because you’re not having to use harmful other pesticides,” Walmsley said. “We’ve got more benign herbicides like Roundup and other things. Those become less attractive. You lose that because you’re not having a tool in the toolbox, because nobody’s going to buy it or it’s depressed to the point where you can’t afford to grow it because there’s just not a market out there for it.”

Even if companies don’t reformulate their products to non-biotech ingredients, mandatory labeling of GMOs can cause consumers unnecessary concern as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only labels foods that are a health, safety or nutrition risk.

“What signal is that sending to consumers? I think that’s the goal of the activists. The argument today is, ‘We have a right to know. So you need to put a label on it.’ Then, once we get labels on it, they’re going to say, ‘Well, why is there a label on there? There’s got to be something wrong,’” Walmsley said.

AFBF is not opposed to GMO labeling. It’s opposed to mandatory and state-by-state labeling laws. The member-driven organization is fully supportive of companies who want to voluntarily label their goods.

“We want the market to decide. We want consumers to decide. If a company wants to put a GMO label or a non-GMO label on their product, as long as it is truthful and not misleading, that’s great. That’s consumer information,” Walmsley said. “One of the things I think we lose sight of is that we’re pretty fortunate today that food is affordable enough, abundant enough that in a lot of cases, not all, there are consumers who are affluent enough to dictate how their food is grown. That’s a beautiful thing for consumers as far as choice.”

There are also choices for farmers who grow organic or non-GMO foods for those respective markets.

“We lose all that if we don’t have ag innovation,” Walmsley said. “If we’re taking innovative options off the table, we’re going to lose these choices down the road and we’re going to have a whole host of other challenges that will be tougher to meet because we don’t have the tools, investment and research in bringing new traits and new innovation to the market if we get this policy wrong.”

Earlier this year, Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts brought legislation to the U.S. Senate that called for a voluntary nationwide labeling bill that would preempt the bill in Vermont.

The bill would have prevented a patchwork of GMO state laws, created a national voluntary labeling standard and would have also required the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote the positives of biotechnology.

The bill did not garner the 60 votes needed for a cloture motion, which was needed to move forward at that time.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc-Connell still has the option to bring the bill back up to a vote at a later time.

“Now the question is, when does that happen if it does happen? That’s what I think we’re all trying to figure out here. We thought there was a fair compromise put out by Senator Roberts that unfortunately became partisan,” Walmsley said.

It’s unclear if the Senate will be able to push the bill through before Vermont’s law takes effect later this summer.

In the meantime, Walmsley encourages those involved in agriculture to talk with consumers, friends, families and local community organizations about the benefits of GMOs.

“Continue to put pressure on your elected representatives. Ultimately, the House did their part. They passed the voluntary labeling bill that provided a voluntary standard that preempted the law last summer 275 to 150. They’re going to take this up again sometime,” Walmsley said. “We really have to get it through the Senate. Senator (John) Cornyn is with us and has been helpful. Senator (Ted) Cruz is a bit of a different story. He’s been occupied with a few other things, but his vote makes a difference. We need him to address it.”

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Vermont+Labeling+Law+Will+Affect+Texas%2C+Nation/2454628/297767/article.html.

Avoiding Avian Flu in Backyard Poultry Flocks

Shala Watson

Backyard poultry operations in Texas are just as susceptible to avian influenza as commercial poultry operations. Officials hope the tens of thousands of backyard operators in the state remain vigilant with their biosecurity efforts.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is an extremely infectious and highly fatal disease. The virus can be spread by contaminated manure, equipment, rodents, insects, vehicles and by clothing and shoes. Once established, the disease can spread rapidly from flock to flock.

According to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), just one gram of contaminated manure can contain enough virus to infect 1 million birds.

Last year’s outbreak in the Midwest was the largest to date, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Avian Influenza and Biosecurity Practices publication.

Biosecurity efforts and diligent maintenance by the Texas Animal Health Commission helped the Lone Star State escape the outbreak, according to the commission’s Public Information Officer Thomas Swafford.

But that doesn’t mean Texas isn’t vulnerable.

“They are just small operations from four to 10 chickens. A lot of times people are usually just raising them for eggs so we just want to make sure people are in the know and they’re educated on how to take care of their chickens properly,” Swafford said.

And all domestic poultry are susceptible to the disease. As migratory birds travel this spring, there’s an increased risk for avian flu.

TAHC officials encourage backyard poultry operators to take extra precautions. Limiting exposure to wild birds and avoiding sharing cages, coops and equipment with others can help minimize chances of avian flu.

For more information on biosecurity, visit TAHC’s website at www.tahc.texas.gov.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Avoiding+Avian+Flu+in+Backyard+Poultry+Flocks/2454634/297767/article.html.

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