Placeholder Banner

Rep. Pompeo’s GMO Labeling Bill Receives Broad Support from Lawmakers

June 22, 2015
On June 18, 2015, the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee held a hearing to examine and discuss a national framework for the review and labeling of biotechnology in food.

In a release, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) applauded the House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee for holding this important hearing and further discussion on the bipartisan Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599). Right now there are 26 states with pending labeling legislation, and this hearing discussed the future role in which our federal government might need to partake.

The witnesses for the hearing included:

  • Rick Blagden, President and Chief Executive Officer, Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals;

  • Todd W. Daloz, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Vermont Attorney General;

  • John Reifsteck, Chairman of the Board and President, GROWMARK, Inc.;

  • Gregory Jaffe, Biotechnology Project Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest; and

  • L. Val Giddings, Senior Fellow, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.

The opening remarks eloquently debated the two key questions about food biotechnology: Are GMOs safe for consumption; and How will mandatory labelling of foods containing GM ingredients affect the economy, innovation, and the environment?

Rick Blagden, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, focused his remarks on how a multi-state patchwork of GMO labeling laws would spike up costs for manufactures and consumers.

According to AgriPulse, Blagden said that complying with Vermont's law ‘really is a nightmare’ for food manufacturers:

“If a company decides to continue selling a GE product in Vermont without reformulating the ingredients, it requires the creation of a new, additional SKU — a unique identifying number — for the product. It also means segregating these products throughout the supply chain.”

Agripulse also captured the sentiment of Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) who argued for the citizens' “right to know” whether or not a product is derived from genetic engineering.

“'If they're so safe, why would anyone be afraid of labeling those products?', he said, echoing the sentiments of the Vermont-based Ben and Jerry's ice cream company, which promotes its products as non-GMO.”

Vermont's Assistant Attorney General Todd Daloz testified on behalf of the state. He did not question the safety of biotechnology, but said that Vermont’s law “would allow citizens worried about the environmental impact of GE foods to adjust their purchasing decisions.”

John Reifsteck is not only the Chairman of the Board and President of GROWMARK, Inc., but a farmer as well. He testified on the many benefits farmers have seen when they have used biotechnology.

"The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act introduced this Congress by Representatives Mike Pompeo and G.K. Butterfield, would ensure that labeling of biotech ingredients in food products is based on consistent standards using sound science.”

According to AgriPulse, Greg Jaffe of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, noted that the FDA process only ensures that the agency “has no further questions” about the developer's safety review and that “the bill would only codify the current process.”

Greg Jaffe also highlighted how consumers are confused about the safety of GMOs and that the “right to know” is something legislators should respond to and stated that:

“The system that would be implemented at USDA if Congress passed H.R. 1599 would go a long way toward uniform labels with verifiable, non-misleading claims.”

Giddings then closed the panel’s remarks by arguing that there is broad scientific consensus around the safety of GMOs. He commented that labeling foods made with GM ingredients would be disregarding scientific fact and caving to irrational emotions and the spread of misinformation.

"The costs and negative impacts of a fifty state patchwork of inconsistent and incoherent standards would be significant."

Giddings further said the concept of branding something as “GMO” is meaningless, since all foods have been genetically modified from their original state. “GM [genetic modification] is a process, it is not a product,” he said.

The powerful opening remarks set up an intense open question and answer session between the committee and the panel. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) asked Reifsteck to validate that biotechnology has transformed agriculture and even allowed crops to flourish through such episodes as drought which was once impossible. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) highlighted how the fear of GMOs has no scientific basis and said that a study conducted by Cornell University, located in his home district, found that the average person would spend $500 dollars extra a year at grocery stores if a bill requiring the mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs were enacted.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) even pointed out that, in a way, the FDA’s “organic” vigorous qualification serves as a label already. Lastly, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) pointed out that no state has passed this legislation referendum — the root of direct democracy — regardless of claims that GMO labeling is “popular.”

Continue to follow BIO at @IAmBiotech or our blog page for more information about Thursday’s Energy and Commerce hearing and Rep. Pompeo’s Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599).