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April 17th, 2014

Monsanto’s Dream Bill is a Nightmare for State GMO Labeling Efforts

By Genna Reed

Last week, Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014” (HR 4432), a brainchild of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) that would serve as a real road block to the thousands of people who have been fighting for the right to know what’s in their food. This piece of legislation would make voluntary (not mandatory) labeling for genetically engineered foods the national standard, ensure that GMOs can be ambiguously labeled as “natural,” create its own rules for non-GMO labeling and, most heinously, preempt all state efforts to require labeling of GMO foods.

We have been aware of the GMA’s plot to move into the GMO labeling policy world since Politico leaked its proposed bill language in January and then the GMA launched its “Safe and Affordable Food Coalition” in February. Unsurprisingly, the GMA found a sponsor who would support all of its original intended language in the bill, resulting in an extremely industry-friendly final version.

So, what is the GMA and why is it so powerful that congressmen do its bidding? Well, this massive trade organization represents 300 of the world’s biggest food and beverage companies as well as agribusinesses like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and Syngenta. The GMA and its member companies have poured over $50 million into political action committees to help block GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington state over the past two years. To illustrate the type of political power GMA is wielding with its big pockets, here’s a paragraph from Food & Water Watch’s new profile on the GMA:

“Between 2001 and 2012, the GMA political action committee donated more than $1 million to federal candidates, political parties and other campaign committees. But it is a much bigger presence roaming the halls of Congress. From 2004 to 2013, the GMA spent $38.9 million lobbying the U.S. Congress and federal officials. In 2013 alone, the GMA spent $14.3 million lobbying on food labeling, country-of-origin labeling, labeling foods with genetically engineered ingredients (commonly known as GMO labeling), food marketing to children and other regulations affecting the food and beverage industry.” 

This kind of spending activity on the GMA’s part makes the food movement’s state-level efforts that much more significant. Not only does it show that grassroots organizing is working to hold elected officials accountable on food issues, but it also shows how work in the states is truly bothering the industry and impacting national policy. It gives us even more reason to keep pressuring our lawmakers to protect consumers because they want the right to know if GMOs are in their food. What consumers definitely don’t want is a voluntary labeling policy created by the very companies who have kept that information from them for 20 years.

Now is the time to stop the GMA from getting its way and fueling its own profit-driven interests. Food & Water Watch will continue to work with the grassroots movement to fight for  GMO labeling around the country. You can take action by telling your members of Congress not to pass Monsanto’s dream bill. For more information on the GMA, you can view our industry profile, here

5 Comments on Monsanto’s Dream Bill is a Nightmare for State GMO Labeling Efforts

  1. Sue Hansen says:

    We cannot let this bill be passed in its current form. Mandatory labeling should be the law. Bottom line is, people have the right to know what they are eating.

    There is too much evidence that current farming and food production methods are responsible for soil deterioration, loss of topsoil, not to mention human ailments such as diabetes, obesity, autism.
    What you buy in boxes in stores and in bags from fast food places is not “food”. Get back to real, organic food!

  2. Gene says:

    I’m thinking one thing we are all forgetting is the “power” we have as consumers. It’s our money that buys these products and makes these corporations rich at our healths expanse. We must remember we have the numbers to make changes both on the federal and state levels. Also a plan could include boycotts on these company’s products. Once they start to lose money then and only then will change take place. One thought to ALWAYS bear in mind is to ask why it is that “they” are so more than willing to spend the huge sums of money they spend to block our efforts and our right to know what is in our foods and where it comes from.
    ALWAYS ask yourself this everyday. Why must this be kept from us? Why?

  3. Kevin Folta says:

    Just for what it is worth, scientists don’t like this bill either. Not because we support labeling, but because the bill forces GM plants to be considered separately from any other genetic alteration. That makes no sense.

    To fix, label all genetic modifications or force all into mandatory testing- that includes traditional hybridizations (where tens of thousands of genes are mixed in unknown ways, many other genomic alterations), mutation breeding (with thousands of unknown alterations) and also GM (1-2 changes). That makes at least some sense.

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