I was barely off the plane from Bolivia, and the ink was barely dry on my “high altitude” diaries when the call came in. The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, backed primarily by the Grocery Manufactures Association and other biotech companies, was up to its old tricks again. Despite the cheery name the folks behind this coalition want to introduce a bill that would look like a solution to federal GMO labeling but in fact weaken and dilute any meaningful labeling protocol in the US. I went to Washington with a pressed suit and business cards to represent the 93% of consumers who want the Right to Know: label GMO. It was an auspicious time to show up!
No sooner had my plane departed from “terra firma” than the email announcement came across “Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas to introduce GMO labeling bill. Not only that, but he already had additional co-sponsors, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Ed Whitfield (R-K.Y.). They expect to hold hearings on the bill in June or July of this year
The announcement was filled with double- speak and misinformation, such as “The bill is aimed at making sure we can produce the food that feeds the world.” Or this deceptively inaccurate statement: “cross breeding” of crops has been going on for a long time and Pompeo considers genetic modification “a more sophisticated way” of cross breeding. Reaction to the announcement from Rep. Chellie Pingree (D., Maine) was, “This bill is nothing but an attempt by chemical companies like Monsanto and giant food industry players to stop grassroots efforts around the country to require GMO labeling.” Read the informative Blog from Scott Faber on EWG’s website “Pompeo’s DARK Act Will Keep Consumers in the Dark” for more views.
Apparently the coalition and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have become frustrated with the number of state labeling laws and initiatives and the money used to fight them. “‘What we want to prevent is a patchwork of statutes,’ Pompeo said in a meeting with agricultural reporters before the official introduction of the bill. We can all agree that state by state isn’t ideal, but this is not the labeling bill anyone wants. This is nothing more than an attempt to put a stop to all GMO labeling and a whole lot more.
In reading the fine print of the proposed bill, it intends to accomplish the following:
- Preempt states from requiring labeling of GMO food
- Prevent FDA from ever requiring GMO labeling
- Keep the current voluntary labeling system in place
- Allow GMO products to be labeled “natural”
- Creates a GMO “review” system based on industry science, impossible deadlines and loopholes for certain food additives and animals fed conventional food
- Ignore the environmental impact of GMO crops, such as increased herbicide applications
- Permit meat, milk, and eggs raised from animals fed GMO-feed to be labeled as non-GMO
When the Center for Food Safety and the Just Label It campaign organized this lobby day, a vast array of advocates from the organic community showed up and spoke out. In total we had 38 people with a sum of 104 Congressional meetings in just two days. Traveling back and forth between the Senate and House sides of the Hill, we were met with hearty support by some as well as a lukewarm reception from others. The danger remains that more of our federal legislators will sign onto the bill not knowing the hidden agenda and consequences. Everyone wants a labeling bill, right? Let’s make sure it isn’t this one.
Now dear reader, it is time for you to do your part. EWG has made it easy to tell your representatives that you deserve the right to know what is in your food. Send the written message, and then pick up the phone and call your legislator! Contact Congress now by entering your address and zip code. Take 10 minutes to make this call and deliver the following message:
“I urge you not to cosponsor the Grocery Manufacturer Association’s GMO labeling preemption bill. This bill would:
- Pre-empt states from requiring labeling of genetically engineered food;
- Prevent FDA from requiring GMO labeling;
- Codify the current voluntary labeling system
Americans want the right to know what’s in their food.
- Polls show 93% of Americans support labeling of GMO food.
- 64 nations require labeling, including Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, the EU and trading partners in Asia.
- Nearly 1.4 million Americans have joined a petition urging FDA to require labeling of GMO food.
- 200 companies and organizations recently signed a letter to President Obama urging him to honor his 2007 pledge to require GMO labeling.
Instead, please consider cosponsoring the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act (S.809/H.R. 1699) sponsored by Sen. Boxer/Rep. DeFazio. This bill requires federal GMO labeling.”
My time in Washington DC was not futile or frivolous as we delivered an important and urgent message. We only want to join the 64 other countries that require GMO labeling. If you haven’t picked up the phone or written that memo, what are you waiting for?