GMO Foods Update: October 2, 2013

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GMO Foods

As we have previously noted the introduction of legislation in both the House and Senate to require the labeling of Genetically Modified Foods (GMO). (These foods are also often referred to as Genetically Engineered and more recently as “bio-engineered). Congressman Peter Defazio and Senator Barbara Boxer introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act (HR 1699 and S. 809). There are now 45 cosponsors to HR 1699 and 13 to S. 809. This is a small increase from last spring.

During the Continuing Resolution battle earlier this year, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) new Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee did not strike Section 735, the Plant Protection Act often referred to as the Monsanto Protection Act from the Senate Version of HR 933, which kept the government running through September 30. This provision allowed companies to sidestep the courts and seek permission to plant GMO crops from the Secretary of Agriculture. This provision eliminated the safety value of the court system to require proof of safety of new crops. Historically, the Secretary of Agriculture has given a pass to industry not fulfilled the duty of insuring that proof of safety has been validated as well as environmental impact studies.

At the time, Chairman Mikulski stated she was not supportive of the provision but that she was simply moving the Bill she inherited. In August, with the failure of Congress to pass the FY2014 budgets, the House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) which included a provision to continue this side stepping of the courts. This was not the only controversial measure in the CR, what has gotten the most attention was the provision to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Senate rejected the measure, and Senator Mikulski issued a statement indicating she did not support such a provision. Her press release stated, “My promises made are promises kept. I have never supported the Monsanto provision, and I continue to oppose it. When I became Appropriations Chairwoman and inherited this problem, I promised I would work to solve it. The Monsanto provision is not included in either of the Senate or House FY14 Agriculture Appropriations bills, and that is a good thing. There’s no reason for it to be included in a short-term CR, either. I have long fought for strong food safety measures. I have supported a bill requiring labeling of genetically engineered fish, an amendment to the Farm Bill that allows states to require labeling of edible foods and beverages for sale that contain genetically engineered ingredients, and called for labeling of cloned animals or their progeny. I will continue to fight for food safety and consumer information to support the health and well-being of families across America.”

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