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Ronnie Cummins and Stan Cox: Require labels on GM food

  • Published Tuesday, April 15, 2014, at 12 a.m.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, has introduced a bill – supported by the agriculture industry – to pre-empt states from passing mandatory labeling laws on genetically modified foods. The legislation is an attempt to stifle consumer demand for labels on food containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The food industry has spent millions of dollars to defeat state-by-state GMO labeling initiatives. And those battles are far from over. Connecticut and Maine recently passed mandatory GMO legislation. Vermont, Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts and others are in the process of trying to do so.

Why are so many states working on GMO labeling laws? Because increasingly, scientists and the medical profession are warning us that we don’t know enough about the long-term impact of GMOs on our health. Recently, an international group of more than 90 scientists, academics and physicians released a statement saying there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GM foods and crops – despite industry’s repeated claims that GMOs are safe.

More than 60 countries have banned GMOs, or require mandatory labeling of foods that contain GMOs. Yet in the United States, thanks to a steady influx of cash from industry lobbyists, consumers are kept in the dark – even though polls show that more than 90 percent of Americans want mandatory GMO labeling laws.

Agribusiness sectors have contributed almost $170,000 to Pompeo since he first ran for office in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association spent months shopping its bill on Congress. Politico reported in January that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., was being courted by the food industry to introduce its bill. A spokeswoman for the committee confirmed that Upton planned to get more input before deciding whether to sponsor the bill. Once groups such as the Organic Consumers Association and Food Democracy Now reported that Upton might sponsor the industry-written legislation, consumers logged tens of thousands of calls to his office expressing outrage.

Now it seems Pompeo is the food industry’s new darling.

Pompeo’s sponsorship of the GMA’s bill reflects everything that’s wrong with today’s political system. Elected by Kansans to represent their best interests, Pompeo is ready to sell out the people of Kansas to companies such as Coca-Cola, Monsanto and Koch Industries.

Pompeo should have thought twice before deciding to carry the GMA’s bill. Because all successful campaigns need two things: money and votes.

Ronnie Cummins is the national director of the Organic Consumers Association based in Minnesota. Stan Cox of Salina is a writer and plant breeder and a former U.S. Department of Agriculture crop geneticist.

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