Rep. Mike Pompeo: Modified foods are needed, safe

04/13/2014 12:00 AM

04/11/2014 5:45 PM

Kansas feeds the world. We nourish America’s population of 300 million people and a global population of nearly 7 billion. We’re able to do this extraordinary work because Kansas growers, ranchers and producers work hard as well as because of advances made in agricultural biotechnology.

This massive advance in technology allows farmers to increase yields, crops to withstand crippling droughts like the one we’re experiencing now, and farmland soil to remain fertile for even longer periods.

Moreover, the genetic engineering of many food varieties reduces the use of pesticides and herbicides, which has led to decreasing risk of potentially harmful health and environmental effects.

In fact, estimates show that advances in agricultural science have helped save billions of lives from starvation. Preserving agricultural innovation enhances our ability to save future generations from misery. For Kansas’ hardworking families, these farming techniques have reduced crop prices by as much as 15 to 30 percent.

So why do some activists want to undermine these advances? Hard to know. Dozens of states are considering legislation that would require warning labels on food products containing ingredients derived from biotechnology, or GMOs. These ingredients, such as corn, soybeans and sugar beets, are absolutely safe.

Eliminating genetically modified ingredients from our entire food supply will not only make it more difficult for farmers in developing nations to feed themselves. Increased food prices also will make it more difficult for mothers and fathers in south-central Kansas to feed their families. One recent study showed that food-labeling efforts in California would have led to an increase in grocery bills by as much as $400 per family per year.

For nearly 20 years we’ve enjoyed GM foods, and nearly 80 percent of what fills our grocery store shelves contains GM ingredients. Not a single credible scientific study has shown them to be anything but 100 percent safe. We should follow the science and make policy accordingly, rather than follow political agendas.

I have now introduced a bipartisan bill that has two primary impacts. It ensures that food labeling will be accurate and not misleading with respect to genetically modified foods and requires those who produce them to submit their products for federal food-safety review. Further, it prevents a handful of states from impeding our national food-safety programs by enacting varying requirements our Kansas farmers cannot meet.

Consumers who prefer organic, non-genetically modified foods, in spite of their higher costs, can continue to enjoy those products as well.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act would simply require the Food and Drug Administration, our nation’s foremost food-safety agency, to have the sole authority to label genetically modified foods. Under this proposal, if an ingredient is determined to be unsafe, it would require a label.

The legislation would provide for consistency to those companies that want to label their products GMO-free and for those that may want to inform consumers their products contain GMOs – because biotechnology can provide choices for consumers in need of gluten-free wheat or allergen-free peanut butter. Safety and accuracy are important.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act will prevent consumer confusion, advance the cause of food safety and provide more consistency – both for farmers in the fields and shoppers in the grocery aisle.

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