Tag Archives: Genetically Modified Foods

Senator Pat Roberts Introduces New GMO Labeling Legislation

Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has introduced new legislation that would prohibit states from creating their own labeling laws for foods that contain genetically modified or engineered ingredients.

Genetically modified or engineered seeds are engineered to have certain traits, such as resistance to herbicides. The majority of the United States’ corn and soybean crops are now GE, including a large portion that is used for animal feed.

The Hill reported that a draft of Roberts’ bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to create a “national voluntary labeling standard” for GE foods. The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee will review the bill on Thursday.

“I will continue to work with members of the Agriculture Committee on potential amendments. However, we are out of time,” Roberts said, according to The Hill.  “The time to act is now. Negotiations will continue in an effort to reach committee agreement.”

Roberts’ bill is similar to the controversial Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which passed the House in June 2015. That bill was also known as the “DARK” (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act by critics because the law would have effectively nullified GE labeling measures, such as the bill recently passed in Vermont. The Vermont law is scheduled to take effect July 2016. Maine and Connecticut have also passed laws requiring labeling, but those measures will not go into effect until bordering states also pass legislation.

Similar to the new bill, the “DARK Act” would have created a federal voluntary standard for GE labeling and block mandatory labeling efforts by states. The bill received support from a coalition of groups representing growers and the food industry who said it wouldprevent a costly and confusing patchwork of state labeling laws from taking effect next year and spreading across the country.”

Lisa Archer, the program director for Friends of the Earth Food and Technology, claimed in a statement provided to The Hill that the new bill “is a desperate attempt by the junk food and chemical industries to keep Americans in the dark about what we feed our families.”

“93 percent of Americans want GMO labeling and this effort to try and stop the consumer demand for transparency that has shaken Big Food to its core will ultimately fail,” said Archer.

Individuals on other side of the debate expressed approval for the new legislation.

“We are very pleased that Chairman Roberts has scheduled a markup on legislation that meets an urgent need to avoid the inevitable chaos the food industry faces if left without a federal government-created standard definition that eliminates multiple state approaches,” Jennifer Hatcher, a spokeswoman for the Food Marketing Institute, said according to a statement given to The Hill. “Without immediate action, costs in the supply chain will escalate rapidly and once the resources are expended, consumer costs will inevitably rise.”

Health advocates and anti-GE, pro-labeling activists are preparing for another battle centered around the controversial technology. If the new bill passes, states would lose the ability to decide whether they would like to mandate labels or make the labeling voluntary. By creating a one-size fits all, centralized solution, the federal government will take away states’ and localities’ ability to make decisions which are in line with the needs of the local environment and community.

In 2015, the critics of the “DARK Act” were able to force the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition & Forestry to hold a hearing titled Agriculture Biotechnology: A Look at Federal Regulation and Stakeholder Perspectives.

The committee heard testimony from several speakers representing farmers, the GMO lobby, and consumer groups. Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency also testified. However, the hearing was criticized for being one-sided and favoring corporations who would directly benefit from the passage of the bill.

As Reuters reported, “the Consumers Union and five other consumer organizations sent a letter to the Senate committee complaining that the lineup of speakers was not balanced and did not include a consumer representative.”

Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union, said “Time and again, a large majority of consumers have expressed strong support for GMO labeling.”

From Marijuana to GMOs to Fracking – Results of the Midterm Elections

The 2014 Midterm Elections led to the approval of measures such as marijuana legalization in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C., a ban on hydraulic fracturing in Denton, Texas, and a shift in the way California defines offenses, such as drug possession.

Oregon became the third state to legalize the “possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over,” according to the Huffington Post.

The Alaska Dispatch reported that voters in Alaska approved legalizing recreational use of marijuana “by about 52 percent in favor to 48 percent opposed, with 100 percent of the state’s precincts reporting.”

According to USA Today, the measure to legalize marijuana in Washington D.C. was “overwhelmingly approved” by voters, and will apply to sections of the district that are not considered “federal land.”

Although the measure to legalize medical marijuana in Florida received 57% approval, it did not receive the necessary 60%, in order to pass.

Florida Today reported that voters “narrowly rejected” the legalization of medical marijuana, “after a surge of ads saying the ballot initiative was riddled with holes,” which cost $6.2 million, and had the backing of a Las Vegas casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson.

Following the elections, Denton became the first city in the state of Texas to ban hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that 58.6 percent of voters approved an ordinance that “will drastically restrict drillers’ attempts to tap the rich natural gas reserves within the city limits.”

A measure to label foods containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), appeared on the ballots in Colorado and Oregon. It was rejected in Colorado, and is still “too close to call” in Oregon. The Oregonian reported that the measure to label GMOs  “trailed 49 percent to 51 percent,” with nearly 80 percent of votes counted.

According to Reuters, this outcome came after corporate food and agriculture interests, such as Monsanto and DuPont, “poured more than $36 million into anti-labeling campaigns in the two states.

Voters in California approved a measure that redefines certain offenses that were considered felonies, such as shoplifting, fraud, and possession of small amounts of drugs, including heroin and cocaine, as misdemeanor.

The Huffington Post reported that as a result of the measure, as many as 10,000 people “could be eligible for early release from state prisons,” and the expectation is that courts “will annually dispense around 40,000 fewer felony convictions.”

Ben Swann joins correspondents Erin Ade, Edward Harrison, Abby Martin, and Tyrel Ventura, from RT News, to discuss the ballot measures: