By Jessica Fujan, Senior Midwest Organizer, Food & Water Watch - Chicago
December 12, 2015. Chicago. (ONN) Federal lawmakers have gone too far in an effort to deny overwhelming consumer demand to label genetically engineered foods (GMOs). While attempts to prevent states from labeling GMOs have failed to produce the biotech industry’s desired result, Congress is making a final attempt to chill consumer rights by inserting a shady ‘Monsanto Rider’ into the omnibus appropriations bill that must pass to keep our government functioning.
After months of foot-dragging, the deadline to approve the omnibus bill has come dangerously close. The normal process for funding the federal government has been tossed aside and everything is up for grabs in backroom negotiations. Big Ag lobbyists are working hard to sway Senators to include a rider on the must-pass budget bill that would prohibit states from labeling GMOs.
Senator Dick Durbin, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, is part of these negotiations and is being pressured heavily by the industry to support this rider that would effectively block American families from accessing information about what is the food they eat and feed their families.
This last ditch effort comes after months of failing attempts to squash state labeling efforts through federal legislation.
Over the summer, the House of Representatives passed the so-called Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which advocates for transparent food labeling more accurately dubbed the Denying the Americans the Right to Know Act (DARK Act). Any version of a Monsanto Rider is likely to be modeled after this dangerous legislation.
If DARK Act is our guide, in addition to blocking states from using the democratic process to require GMO labeling, the Monsanto Rider would also overturn existing GMO labeling laws in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.
Sadly, Senator Durbin has repeatedly slighted the importance of transparent food labeling, citing a lack of scientific evidence. Despite the biotechnology industry’s claim, there is no scientific consensus about the safety of genetically engineered crops, and the World Health Organization recently named Roundup, the harsh pesticide that most GMO crops are engineered to tolerate, is a "probable human carcinogen."
Senator Durbin will soon be tasked with voting on the appropriations bill. If the bill carries any version of the “Monsanto Rider,” Senator Durbin must stand up to agribusiness interests and defend the right of Illinois families and families across the United States to know what’s in their food.
Jessica Fujan, Senior Midwest Organizer at Food & Water Watch - Chicago
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