Opinion Columns & Blogs

Rep. Mike Pompeo: GMO bill keeps focus on science

Pompeo The Wichita Eagle

As a former businessman, I look for commonsense, conservative solutions to the challenges facing Kansans. So when I was approached by Kansas farmers who were facing new regulations from local governments around the country, I went to work.

To help them, I introduced the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (SAFLA). It’s aimed squarely at keeping food affordable, improving crop yields and demanding that science – not politics – be at the center of food supply policy. SAFLA is bipartisan and is supported by the Kansas Farm Bureau and nearly every organization focused on providing safe and affordable food.

SAFLA does three simple things. First, it requires the Food and Drug Administration to review all new genetically engineered (GE or GMO) products to ensure they are safe. Today these foods have no required review by any governmental entity. Second, it creates a system for labeling that is consistent with our nation’s tradition of requiring food labels only for health or safety reasons. Finally, it protects consumers’ “right to know,” by confirming that truthful labels identifying products as “GMO-free” or “organic” will be permitted in every state.

Last week the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on this legislation. The scientists who testified made clear that, to date, genetic engineering of food has presented no safety risk. Even the opponents, under oath, admitted that there is no demonstrated health or safety risk from GE foods.

At the same time, the hearing confirmed that a patchwork of GMO-labeling laws would hurt Kansas families by unnecessarily raising the cost of food. A recent study showed that proposed local GMO-labeling laws could raise the average family’s food bill by as much as $500 a year. That is something many of our friends and neighbors cannot, and should not have to, afford.

Finally, Kansas farmers rely on these emerging technologies to help them feed a world with more souls to nourish each day. Kansas farmer Stacey Forshee testified that GE products are increasing crop yields and decreasing water and pesticide usage. She also feeds these products to her three boys every day. Biotechnology is ushering in a world of new possibilities for our farmers and for a hungry world.

Some have expressed concerns about “federalizing” GE product labeling. As a true believer in limited government, I share those concerns. But our Constitution prohibits localities, with political mischief and protectionism on their minds, from disrupting interstate commerce. In the Air Capital of the World, we know that the Federal Aviation Administration – not, for example, the California Aviation Administration – is necessary to ensure that we can travel safely in our Kansas-built airplanes.

Food safety is a national task, and allowing every town in America to set its own standards is inherently unworkable, It would prove not only expensive but would make our food suppliers globally uncompetitive.

SAFLA will ensure that everyone’s right to know whether their food contains GMOs is preserved while keeping our food both safe and affordable. I look forward to continuing to advance this legislation in the months ahead.

Mike Pompeo is a Republican member of Congress from Wichita.