A Senate version of Big Food’s voluntary GMO labeling bill is in the works, now that the terrible Pompeo bill is gaining steam. Action Alert!
A few weeks ago, we told you about legislation that would let food producers decide whether to label their products that contain genetically engineered or modified ingredients. It’s being jokingly called the Deny Americans’ Right to Know Act (the “DARK Act”) by pro-labeling advocates, because if HR 1599, the deceptively named Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-CA) passes, it would preempt any state laws mandating the labeling of foods containing GM ingredients.
Unfortunately, the bill is gaining bipartisan support: since it was introduced, forty-seven House members have signed on, including twelve Democrats.
Not only is voluntary labeling legislation gaining momentum in the House, it now has a champion in the Senate as well. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) has indicated that his office is also preparing a voluntary GMO labeling bill that would preempt state efforts. Sen. Hoeven’s bill would use the USDA to implement the bill (Pompeo’s bill uses the FDA), placing it under the jurisdiction of the Senate Agricultural Committee—whose chair, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), has received the second highest amount of money from the agricultural services and products sector and is among the top three senators receiving money from the food processing and sales sector.
This is all the more troubling considering the state of mandatory GMO labeling legislation. In the Senate, the Boxer-Blumenthal bill that we favor has no Republican support; the bill’s counterpart in the House, sponsored by Rep. DeFazio (D-OR), has only one Republican cosponsor. Without bipartisan report, neither version is likely to move.
Rep. Pompeo (and other supporters of GMOs and GMO-related special interests) continue to ignore the impact of GMOs on our health and environment while intentionally misleading the public.
In a recent op-ed in Roll Call, the daily Capitol Hill newspaper, Rep. Pompeo touts the same—now thoroughly debunked—myths that have been used for years to mislead the public into thinking that GMOs are biotech’s great gift to humanity. To prove that GMOs are “ushering in a new world of possibilities,” Pompeo makes a number of remarkable claims.
First, Pompeo argues that GMOs are decreasing pesticide usage, citing a 2003 figure showing a 46.4 million pound reduction that year. The trouble is that the truth is the exact opposite, as confirmed by a former senior scientist at the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. In a paper released last September, Dr. Ramon Seidler wrote,
Much has been written by scientific and mainstream media about the advantages of using genetically engineered (GE) crops because, according to popular belief, these crops require significantly less pesticide to control weed and insect pests….These accounts are inaccurate and rely on annual pesticide and application rates and volumes reported prior to 2010, when widespread resistance began to emerge in “superweeds” and “superinsects”….These reports also ignore the now widespread practice of coating seeds in systemic pesticides, which has emerged in the past ten years. This lack of journalistic and scientific integrity distorts the facts on the ground.
Second, Pompeo makes the familiar argument about GMOs increasing crop yields. We covered this claim, one of biotech’s favorites (“GMOs will feed the world!”), a few years back in an in-depth report. The evidence suggests that, overall, corn and soybean yields have risen over the past fifteen years, but this is mainly because of traditional breeding or improvement in agricultural practices. According to a Union of Concerned Scientists report, several recent studies show that organic and low-external-input farming methods (i.e., using reduced amounts of fertilizer and pesticides) can improve yield by over 100% in those countries, along with greater health benefits.
Next, Pompeo cites research projects that have affirmed the safety of GMOs. The fact is, there have been no epidemiological studies done on GMOs, nor any scientific consensus on their safety. Most of the studies showing GMOs to be safe have been done by the biotech companies themselves.
(Note: you can find all of this information and more on our GMO Fact Check site.)
By laboring to prove the benefits of GMOs by bringing up these arguments, proponents of biotech crops are diverting attention from the main issue. This debate is about consumers’ right to know what’s in their food, and the bottom line is this: the Pompeo and Hoeven bills, supported by biotech and Big Food giants like Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, keep consumers in the dark. We must prevent this from becoming law. The 93% of Americans who support labeling foods with GMOs must make their voices heard.
Action Alert! Write your senators and representatives, and tell them consumers have a right to know what’s in their food and that you support the mandatory labeling of GMOs. Urge them NOT to support the House and Senate bills that would leave it up to food companies to decide whether or not to label GMOs. Please send your message immediately!