Renewable Farming

U.S. House to vote on “Deny Americans the Right to Know” act

A federal legislative effort to block retail labeling of GMO foods is heading for a vote in the U.S. House of Representative this week, probably Thursday. 

It would pre-empt any state’s right to require such labeling — as Vermont has already done, and which several state referendums have attempted to require. 

A Wall Street Journal poll a few days ago revealed that 63% of its readers favor labeling of foods with genetically engineered content. 

The American Farm Bureau is promoting the bill, saying a single, national labeling law is preferable to state actions.  The AFBF editorial position in our Iowa Farm Bureau paper, the Spokesman, is that GMO crops have never caused a health problem. 

Thus, the likelihood of federal action on GMO labeling is slim, especially given the language of the bill, H.R. 4432. Its primary purpose appears to be a means of accelerating approvals of new GMO crops. This is a sharp contrast with more than 60 other nations, which either label or restrict production of GMO crops.

The Center for Food Safety and many other consumer-driven organizations oppose this bill, which they call the DARK act:  “Deny Americans the Right to Know” what’s in their food. The act, says the Center for Food Safety, is “against small farmers looking to protect their livelihoods, and against consumers who want to exercise their freedom to choose what they eat.”

You can review a summary of the bill and the complete text at this link.

The Environmental Working Group’s Sara Sciammacco posted a detailed analysis of the bill April 9. That includes a partial list of political contributions the the bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.).

The organization Food Democracy Now is urging defeat of the measure. Their reasons are at this link.

If Congress does pass such legislation — in effect indefinitely delaying any labeling of foods containing genetically modified content — we would expect an accelerated expansion in foods labeled “Non-GMO.”  This is already the fastest-growing label in America. It would become the only recourse, along with organic foods, that consumers have to avoid transgenic food.

A growing non-GMO and organic market offers opportunity for farmers willing to produce for it. Right now, the number of delivery points for non-GMO staples like corn and soybeans is limited. And the premiums often aren’t high enough to overcome extra delivery costs. But as a wider array of consumers demand organic and non-GMO, based on the health facts they’re seeing, the premiums will likely rise again. The prices of organic corn and soybeans, for example, remained firm the past couple of years as mainstream corn and bean prices fell.