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If the U.S. House has its way, state laws passed (and those being considered) requiring that foods produced using genetic modification (i.e. genetically modified crops or biotech foods) be label would become moot. On July 24, 2015, the house voted 275 for to 150 against, passing a bill banning state laws that force food makers to place labels on products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The agriculture industry complained individual state labeling standards would be costly and confusing and, more importantly, any standard, even a universal federal standard, would unfairly lend credence to environmentalists false assertions or suggestions that biotech foods are not as safe or healthy as conventional foods developed through traditional cross breeding techniques.
Vermont, Connecticut and Maine have already passed mandatory GMO labeling laws, though they have yet to take effect, while GMO labeling laws are being considered in few other states. The House bill would prevent them all.
Democrats and Republican’s alike supported the GMO labeling ban. The Minneapolis Star Tribune notes Democratic Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota supported the House bill he said, “hundreds of scientific, peer reviewed studies have found [genetically engineered] foods are just as safe and nutritious as non-[genetically engineered] foods.” Another Minnesota Rep. who voted in favor of the bill, Republican Rep. Tom Emmer argued “Minnesota farmers already deal with heavy compliance regulations to ensure that genetically engineered crops are safe to eat.”
The vote came on the heels another in a long list of literature reviews and analyses demonstrating the safety of biotech foods was published in Salon Magazine on July 15, 2015. In it the author William Saletan notes, organizations lobbying against GMOs routinely lie and have been consistently anti-scientific in their claims about biotech foods, contributing to public misunderstanding and, in some cases, hysteria.
This followed a comprehensive 2013 report in which Italian researchers reviewed nearly 1,800 peer reviewed studies of the human health and environmental safety of GMO products which determined that those foods are as safe, or safer than, conventional or organic foods. The team of Italian scientists conducting the study couldn’t find a single credible example demonstrating that genetically modified foods pose any harm to humans or animals. “The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops,” researchers concluded. In addition, the Italian scientists found “little to no evidence” that genetically modified crops have a negative environmental impact on their surroundings.
Much of the food industry was thrilled with the House vote and hopes the Senate will move quickly to pass the bill as well.
Ag-giants General Mills and Cargill, and the nation’s largest farmer-owned cooperative, CHS Inc., each lobbied for the bill. In statements post-passage, they praised the House vote. CHS Inc.’s statement said “CHS applauds the House of Representatives for passing the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.”
Sometimes sound science wins despite environmental fear-mongering. Three cheers for the House of Representatives.
Some readers might find Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore’s views of GMO’s and the biotech controversy worth examining, I know I did.