House Dems push for mandatory GMO labeling

House Dems push for mandatory GMO labeling
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Backed by food companies like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, House Democrats renewed their push on Capitol Hill Wednesday for the mandatory labeling of foods that contain  genetically modified organisms or GMOs.

In March, Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioHere are the Democrats who aren't co-sponsoring an assault weapons ban To stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump issues Taliban warning at Sept. 11 memorial MORE (D-Ore.) introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, but to move the bill through Congress, DeFazio said there needs to be a grassroots movement to gain Republican support. Rep. Don Young (Alaska) is the bill's sole Republican co-sponsor now.

On Wednesday, the Just Label It campaign, which formed to advocate for GMO labeling, released a new survey conducted by The Mellman Group, which found that 88 percent of Americans are in favor of labeling requirements for foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

“The 88 percent of the people in Americans who want this labeling need to bug their members of Congress because theses people are hearing from Monsanto,” DeFazio said. “Monsanto doesn’t get to vote. They might give them more money, but if they hear from a lot more people who are saying this is important to me in the next election, we’ll get Republicans and Democrats and we’ll get it done.”

Monsanto, the multinational biotechnology corporation, successfully lobbied last year against a ballot initiative in Oregon to mandate labeling of GMOs. The company spent $6.7 million to defeat the initiative, according to reports in the St. Louis Business Journal.

DeFazio said companies are already forced to products with GMO ingredients in 64 countries, but they say it would be too expensive to do it in the U.S.

“The most reasonable estimate, if you think there is any cost, some say would be $2 per family a year,” he said. “Well Monsanto and its allies spent $8 per vote in Oregon to defeat our initiative, the most expensive initiative in the history of the state.”

Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of the Vermont-based specialty ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, was on Capitol Hill Wednesday to back Defazio and Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.) in speaking out against the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, which Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) introduced with lead co-sponsor Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and Democrats have renamed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know” or “DARK Act.”

“We should be proud to tell consumers about what they are eating,” he said.  “We should be screaming it from the rooftops what our ingredients are.”

Because food companies regularly change their packaging, GMO labeling would not be an expensive mandate.

“Ben & Jerry’s has done it,” he said.

DeFazio’s bill is now sitting in the House Agriculture Committee waiting to be heard and marked-up by the committee.

“If they’re going to move forward with hearings on DARK, we would like them to at the same time hold hearings on the light act,” DeFazio said, referring to his bill.