Iowa in the 1960’s offered a life that was simpler and had a less complicated pace. The local airport was small and completely surrounded by towering fields of corn. One of our favorite Friday night rituals was for the entire family to trundle into the old Cadillac and drive to the airport and watch the planes arrive. My mother would pack a picnic supper to eat as we expectantly waited for the two evening planes to land from faraway places. One after the other they gloriously zoomed overhead. It sounds silly now but those were exciting times, and as the small propeller airplanes took off I sniffed my first hint of wanderlust. Who were these people cavorting off through the sky to distant lands? What could they possibly be up to?
Today I find myself as one of those people flying across the continent in a brief five hour journey. I am thrilled to be going to the Sustainable Ag and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) first policy conference in Washington, DC. Despite the fact that the 114 Congress hasn’t been seated and they are in a “lame duck” session, there is quite a lot going on in the nation’s capital. It’s interesting to note that come January, nearly half of Congress (48.8 percent) will have been in office for four years or less. But I digress….
This week the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health will hold a hearing on federal labeling of GMO foods. The meeting is called “Examining FDA’s role in the regulation of genetically modified food ingredients.” It will provide a forum for Representative Mike Pompeo’s bill to essentially pre-empt state labeling laws.
This proposed bill seeks to take away the rights of individual states to pass and enforce GMO labeling laws. It would render Vermont’s recently hard won GMO labeling law void. No longer could the grassroots moms and concerned chefs gather signatures for state ballots. States would be rendered impotent in their ability to regulate and govern GMOs. This bill also seeks to restrict the FDA’s ability to mandate national GMO labeling.
This proposed bill has been declared the “DARK Act” by many. It has sneaky and misleading language calling for “federal GMO labeling.” At first blush this sounds quite good until you read the details. The federal labeling would be mandated as voluntary which is exactly what we have right now. To my knowledge no company has ever labeled a carton or box verifying it contains GMO ingredients. Consumers would shun it like a five day old sandwich.
If this bill gains traction in our newly seated (and fresh off the ballot) Congress next year, the fight to gain any GMO labeling anywhere would be set back by at least a decade, perhaps longer. The stakes are high with this one and Congress needs to hear from you now and throughout the coming New Year.
Each and every SAFSF Funder attending the conference and Hill visits has their unique area of concern or focus within sustainable agriculture. We all have slightly different messages to deliver on subjects such as immigrations, food safety rules and conservation. It is clear that I have two important messages to deliver as I visit representatives this week:
- To strongly oppose House/Senate efforts to block states or the FDA from giving consumers the right to know.
- To support organic agricultural funding because it fuels rural and urban prosperity while building soils, protecting our waters from toxic chemicals.
I have become one of those jetted individuals soaring through the skies for a purpose. I am grateful that my family took me to watch the planes come in. That experience allowed me to get on that plane today, and go tell Congress what I believe in.