America’s corn and soybean farmers are applauding the effort of the Senate Agriculture Committee this week to move forward Senator Pat Roberts’s bill on GMO labeling. The bill addresses the potential for a patchwork of state labeling laws and the confusion and increased food costs that would result.
Committee chairman Robert’s legislation establishes a national framework for labeling of bioengineered food products and Indiana Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly joined all 11 republicans supporting it.
“Instead of pitting conventional farmers versus organics, or concerned parents versus biotech companies, we need to quickly enact legislation that ensures consumers can get the information they want, without sticking misleading labels on every food product. And this isn’t just a theoretical debate. Every day I hear from Hoosiers who have a genuine desire to know more about the production of their food, and when major food manufacturers take steps to remove genetically engineered ingredients from their foods, our misconceptions can actually lead to less nutritious foods on store shelves.”
Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Heidi Heitkamp also voted in favor of the bill. During the committee markup Donnelly referenced non-GMO cereals that contain fewer vitamins.
“Kids have to enjoy their cereals while missing vitamins A, D, B12 and B2. While we’re not going to consider an outright ban on the cultivation of GMO crops, the practical consequences of mandating a symbol on food packages that consumers take as a warning would push many producers away from growing crops with the traits we need to maximize efficient production.”
Donnelly continued, “Researchers at Purdue have gone over this, have talked about yields declining in various crops, have talked about the need to convert 1.1 billion acres of forest and pastures to croplands to keep up with present rates of production.”
Donnelly proposed and then later withdrew an amendment that creates a national, voluntary bioengineered food labeling standard and establishes ambitious goals for companies to make information available to consumers through that voluntary program. If food companies fail to make sufficient information available, then a national food labeling standard for bioengineering would become mandatory.
“I am hopeful we can incorporate the ideas we have seen in our amendment and put that into the final legislation which I think would then be able to pass.”
Donnelly said he’ll continue working with Republican and Democrat colleagues to improve the bill when it comes to the Senate floor and achieve a national solution good for consumers and producers.