When I first detailed Monsanto's plan to put an end to the possibility of mandatory GMO labeling back in January, it went without saying that the story was just beginning. The plan as detailed -- which, to re-explain briefly, is the passage of federal legislation that prohibits states from passing their own initiatives that would make labeling mandatory -- was merely in its formative stage. The GMO corporations would still need to reach a congressional leader or two to actually introduce the plan in front of Congress. And, for pretty obvious and somewhat ironic reasons -- the latter because the bill removes rights from the state level and places more power in the hands of the feds -- the bill would most likely come from the Republican side of the aisle.
Well, last week that prediction became a reality.
On Wednesday, Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas introduced a bill that would preempt the passage of any state initiatives for mandatory GMO labeling. Orwellian-ly named the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act" -- because why not go all the way with it? -- Pompeo's bill, as currently worded, would prohibit labeling any food developed using biotechnology as such. His rationale:
"We've got a number of states that are attempting to put together a patchwork quilt of food labeling requirements with respect to genetic modification of foods," said Pompeo. "That makes it enormously difficult to operate a food system. Some of the campaigns in some of these states aren't really to inform consumers but rather aimed at scaring them. What this bill attempts to do is set a standard."
While that idea may seem to make sense on the surface (a "patchwork quilt" of laws isn't a long-term answer), in reality it's a last ditch attempt by Monsanto and other GMO corporations who see the legislative trend moving in a direction where, sooner or later, there will be laws forcing them to label their product. (Maine and Connecticut have already passed bills that would enact mandatory labeling if other states first take the plunge.) They're also, presumably, sick of having to drop tons of money every year fighting state initiatives.
Currently, there are 60 active bills across 23 states that will force GMO labeling, and those numbers show no sign of slowing down. And those kinds of fights take money. A lot of it. $46 million was spent defeating California's Prop 37 in 2012, and another $21 million was spent fighting Washington's Initiative 522 in 2013. By taking the fight away from the state level and pushing it into the federal system, they're trying to save money and, possibly, stave off the inevitable for a bit longer.
The bill's expected to be debated and ultimately voted on sometime during the summer. In the meantime, it seems wise to alert your congressional representatives on how much you'd appreciate it if they ended up voting against it. They are, in order of district number:
- Buck McKeon, a Republican who represents the 25th district of California and has announced he will not seek re-election in 2014.
- Adam Schiff, a Democrat representing the 28th district, which includes a wide swath of L.A. including areas such as Silver Lake, Hollywood, Burbank and West Hollywood.
- Tony Cárdenas, a Democrat who represents the 29th district.
- Brad Sherman, a Democrat for the 30th district.
- Henry Waxman, the long-serving Democrat covering the 33rd district who has also announced he's not seeking re-election in 2014.
- Xavier Becerra, Democrat for the 34th district, which includes all of downtown L.A.
- Karen Bass, Democrat for the 37th district.
- Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Democrat for the 40th district.
- Maxine Waters, Democratic Rep for the 43rd district.
- Janice Hahn, Democratic Rep. with the 44th district.
Click here to find out what district you belong to, and then head on over to their websites, click on the Contact button, and let your voices be heard.
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