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Grocery Manufacturers Association Nearly Doubles Spending on Federal Advocacy  

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<p>The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 was the source of lobbying expenditures in each of the four quarters in 2015, according to lobbying reports GMA filed with Congress.</p>

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) last year nearly doubled spending on federal advocacy, boosted in part by efforts to preempt state laws that require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 was the source of lobbying expenditures in each of the four quarters in 2015, according to lobbying reports GMA filed with Congress.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation (H.R. 1599) last summer, although the bill was not taken up by the Senate and lawmakers in December excluded from a spending bill a rider that would have blocked Vermont from implementing the first mandatory state GMO-labeling law. GMA has sought to overturn Vermont’s Act 120 in federal court, arguing the law will burden the food industry and infringes the First Amendment.

The more than century-old GMA, which represents food, beverage and consumer products companies, spent approximately US$8.46 million on federal advocacy last year, according to lobbying records. The figure was up from US$4.63 million in 2014, records showed.

The Hill last week first reported GMA’s lobbying expenditures, noting that the trade association’s 83-percent annual boost in lobbying expenditures reflected the second-largest percentage increase on federal advocacy behind Amazon. But 32 other organizations, including Coca-Cola Co. (US$8.67 million) spent more last year than GMA on lobbying.

In an email to Natural Products INSIDER, GMA spokesman Brian Kennedy cited “a number of active issues in GMA’s advocacy portfolio that require robust federal engagement."

In the first quarter of 2015 alone, GMA devoted its lobbying to a variety of issues from HR1599 and obesity to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, dietary guidelines and implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the records showed. The trade association also lobbied in 2015 on country of origin labeling, FDA appropriations, partially hydrogenated oils, sodium and other issues.

GMA’s lobbying efforts heated up in the fourth quarter, with expenditures totaling US$2.58 million. Lobbying was devoted in part to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, a trade and investment pact that was signed last week by representatives of the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

“The agreement will reduce or eliminate tariffs on the majority of U.S. food, beverage and consumer product exports and will strengthen TPP parties’ commitments to science-based, non-discriminatory regulations and technical standards," said Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of GMA, in a statement Feb. 3.

The TPP, which represents about one-third of all global trade, won’t take effect unless it is ratified by the United States and Japan, the Miami Herald reported. And in Japan, opponents of the pact’s agricultural provisions have raised concerns about food-safety issues, the paper noted.

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