Keeping America’s food supply safe

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For families trying to make it in this economy, every dollar counts. And it’s getting harder. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it expects food prices to jump 3.5 percent in 2014. For these families, food costs make up a substantial part of their spending each and every week.

Yet activists are calling for a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws for foods containing everyday genetically modified ingredients that could cause food prices to skyrocket by 15 to 30 percent without improving the safety of the food supply.

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We have to do better by America’s families. That’s why we are proud to introduce bipartisan legislation that would establish, once and for all, a federal standard for labeling foods with genetically modified ingredients that would keep prices low, enhance consumer choice, and ensure that information that reaches consumers is accurate and does not mislead.

The premise of our effort is simple: The Food and Drug Administration, our nation’s foremost food safety authority, should have the ultimate authority to require labeling on genetically modified foods. Just as with other foods, if the FDA ever has cause to believe genetically modified foods pose even the slightest health effect or are shown to be materially different from foods made without GMOs, the agency would be required to step in.

Under our legislation, the FDA would establish federal standards for companies to voluntarily label their products for the absence or presence of GMO food ingredients so that consumers would clearly understand their choices in the marketplace.

We work every day to ensure that America’s farmers are able to maintain the world’s most abundant food supply, while also giving American families the reassurance and comfort of knowing that their food is safe.

Modern biotechnology has made this possible, particularly over the last 20 years, through genetically modified ingredients. Farmers have used this technology to increase their yields, reduce the use of pesticides, and blunt the impact of crippling droughts. They have also allowed food producers to reduce the price of crucial crops, such as corn, soybeans, and sugar beets, by 15 to 30 percent.

Our country’s orange crop was afflicted with aggressive and devastating bacteria. Scientists and farmers came together and discovered an orange tree that was naturally immune to the bacteria. By cross pollinating that tree with others, they were able to genetically modify orange trees to prevent a total collapse of one of America’s most nutritious and popular fruit crops. How’s that for a GMO success story?

Such innovations are now used to produce about 80 percent of the food in your grocery store and have allowed us to add desirable traits from nature without introducing unnatural pesticides or chemicals.

Most importantly, there is clear scientific consensus that GMOs are safe.

Every major health organization has determined GMOs have no health effects. Italian scientists recently reviewed nearly 2,000 different studies of GMOs — failing to find a single credible study indicating that GMOs are unsafe or different from foods grown without this technology.

That hasn’t stopped opponents of GMOs, who have undertaken efforts in some states to use labeling laws as a way to malign your food and make life harder for farmers. These efforts are irresponsible, ill-informed, and would impact our ability to grow safe, affordable food for America’s families.

Food labels need to make sense and give consumers real, accurate information. Instead of mandating labels based on the personal preferences of political activists, we believe the only mandatory information that appears on a food label should be decided by the FDA, and it should focus on the safety and nutritional content of a product.

We’re working together on this balanced approach to protect America’s farmers and families from expensive and burdensome activist-driven regulations that vary state by state, while also giving consumers the confidence they need to ensure the safety and security of our food supply.

This new legislation encourages innovation and expands techniques that ultimately make our farms more efficient, protects our environment, and allows us to keep food prices as affordable as possible. Keeping food safe and affordable: It’s a policy that just makes sense.

Pompeo has represented Kansas’s 4th Congressional District since 2011. He sits on the Energy and Commerce and the Intelligence committees. Butterfield has represented North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District since 2004. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee.