— Part 1 of a 2-part investigation —
When I started this investigative sequence (#RightToKnow?) earlier this year, legislation was already on the table courtesy of Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo… but I had no idea just how quickly that legislation would be passed. In a way, it partially answers the question at hand for American citizens, which I’ll address in a moment. And that question is, specifically —
“Should American citizens know if there are genetically modified organisms in their food?”
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, or HR 1599, was passed on July 23, 1015 . If you’d prefer, most of this information is also found in GMO TRUTH PODCAST #8, available here.
Also, here’s a link to the text of the Act itself: https://www.opencongress.org/bill/hr1599-114/text
And here are the two videos of the hearings that were held to discuss the two different versions of the legislation:
Hearing #1, December 2014 (legislation was slightly different back in 2014):
Hearing #2, June 2015:
Word of warning!! Expect it to take 4+ hours to get through the videos, plus another 20-30 minutes or so if you want to carefully read through the entire bill. Yes, this is why you want to subscribe to The Walk a Mile Project! We sift through all of this so that you don’t have to – that’s a big part of how we make a difference.
One important note – if you’re hoping to stop this legislation from passing in the Senate, here are some links empowering you to do so. Just because it passed in the House, doesn’t make it a law yet. I’d certainly encourage you to read through everything here and listen to GMO TRUTH #8 first, however, before acting on any of these links.
Change the World Films and The Walk a Mile Project have not researched these sites, other than to note that they are focused on taking action to prevent the legislation from becoming law, so please do not consider these links as an endorsement for the sites or organizations themselves:
Sign these petitions
Email your senators
So why did this legislation even come to fruition? Across the country, statewide legislation and referendums have popped up over the past few years, asking for the labeling of genetically engineered foods. In California and Oregon, referendums almost passed but failed. Then in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine, laws were actually enacted — crafted and approved by state legislators. There’s been a lot of work from the pro-GMO Labeling contingent to get these state laws in place, presumably as a tool to force the federal government to step up and craft a federal labeling law.
We’re not sure if that’s been made crystal clear, or if there were ulterior motives in place, but regardless, the GMO Labeling contingent completed enough work at the state level to draw attention on the federal level. So the federal legislature felt the need to step in, looking to prevent patchwork labeling laws that would require different labeling standards across different states. And I think everyone readily agrees that the more patchwork the laws might become, the more difficult it would be for food producers to accommodate, because we’d have multiple state laws, instead of one federal law, that could provide a uniform standard.
I think it’s pretty easy for anyone to understand this point, and it felt like that was the case for most of the two hearings as well… although there was hesitation from some people in the house to go stomping on state’s rights like HR 1599 does. For our investigation’s purposes, we don’t take issue with the US House of Representatives looking to implement a federal level solution – but please feel free to chime in on that in the comments and let us know if you disagree, or if you think we’re missing something we should dig into more.
A GMO AGENDA — REPRESENTATIVES BEHAVING BADLY
Now let’s talk about what’s not so rosy on Capitol Hill – the things I’m seriously concerned about after watching the two hearings and reading the legislation itself. First, I’m a little concerned about the people actually sponsoring this bill. Watching these two hearings left me pretty disconcerted about the way our elected officials handle themselves. You’ve probably already seen the article we put up about Representative Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, which you can review here if you’d like, where she started off the first hearing with a big lie that made it sound like GMO Golden Rice has literally saved millions of lives.
I’m sure we’d all like to think that people in our government who decide to champion something like this legislation, actually bust their butts to do some research, talk to experts, and certainly to look at both sides. But with a few exceptions, I didn’t feel that whatsoever watching these hearings.
And we don’t ever want to see one of our elected officials step up at the beginning of a very important hearing, one that affects millions of people, and just blatantly lie in a way that completely pushes her own agenda, completely misinforming everyone in the room. I’m sorry, but that’s very disappointing, and extremely irresponsible.
Then there’s Mike Pompeo from Kansas, the sponsor of this bill, who particularly at the end of this second hearing acts just unbelievably pompous. In the first hearing he kept trying to talk over and literally steer the words of the FDA official who was being interviewed. Then in the 2nd hearing, he harped on the lack of a GMO Labeling referendum actually passing in a state, because all the state referendums were defeated. He didn’t talk about the number of voters involved, or the percentages, and he sure as hell didn’t mention the outrageous sums of money spent by the big biotech companies (including Monsanto) on advertising designed to publicly dissuade voters – and with questionable ethics and information in those ads to boot.
And by the way, Oregon’s vote was so close, it required a recount. So it’s not like there were 5 people in California and 4 people in Oregon pushing for GMO labeling. Pompeo’s arrogance was embarrassing (watch GMO TRUTH #8 to see a clip of it), and there is no place for it in public office. He was a disservice to his constituents and to everyone present and/or affected by what happened at the hearing, and he wasn’t the only representative behaving badly.
This kind of open bias towards passing HR 1599 permeated most of the hearing, which brings me to the second concern here – at times both these hearings just felt like misinformation-laden dog and pony shows. In other words, it felt like, with a few exceptions, everyone was just sitting in a room talking about a foregone conclusion, as if all the votes were already cast, particularly the 2nd hearing that took place in June 2015.
LABELING WON’T COST MUCH
And in that hearing, again, we heard more misinformation. First, the labeling cost figures, which have been floating around for a while now, are absolutely absurd, particularly the $500 per family figure. Although we did at least hear two different positions on this), it still fell way short of addressing reality. Look, multiple people mentioned the stats on GMOs in America right now. 90+% of all corn, soy and sugar beets are now genetically modified. So obviously, the vast majority of all products made with those ingredients would don a GMO label. They talked about differentiating between the two like it’s a 50/50 proposition that will require so much work, when sorry, but less than 10% of all these crops are non-GMO. And how many of that 10% are already non-GMO verified and labeled accordingly right now?
So almost all of the labels on foods that contain ingredients like corn and soy would change, it’s pretty simple. Label changes themselves happen all the time, that’s of little consequence, so the issue is really about differentiating the supply, and for the majority of the crops in question, that differentiation only needs to occur in less than 10% – the small percentage that would want to stay GMO free.
Also, there were so many easy counterpoints that should have readily been brought to the conversation and just weren’t. That’s a key reason why it felt like a big dog and pony show. How does no one in that room bring up what I can bring up off the top of my head here at The Walk a Mile Project? The whole “labels will cost too much argument” is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard in any of our research so far for the documentary, and that’s definitely saying a lot.
SHE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE
Beyond the “all for show” aura that these hearings gave off at times, there was also just a lack of digging into the supposed safety consensus. Yeah, so you brought in one guy from the FDA. We’re all aware of the FDA’s stance. That’s great. But you have people across the country voicing a concern, a health concern, one that you would hope inspires a little more due diligence. It isn’t just a few people crying wolf.
Tthis is something we’re almost to the point of covering at Walk a Mile, which is that there are people who have taken certain GMO foods out of their diet, or their children’s diet, and have reported health improvements from doing so. I can’t vouch for exact results at this point, because we haven’t gone down the research path yet, but GMOs are most certainly a suspect to the point where these kinds of health situations are making activists out of people, like teenager Rachel Parent in Canada, and then Robyn O’Brien here in the U.S.And my point is simply this – where were those voices in these hearings? Are you going to tell me that, particularly in the first hearing, with an FDA spokesperson present, that the FDA has received ZERO complaints on potential GMO reactions? I’m sure the number isn’t insanely high since most people don’t even know when they’re eating GMOs (hence the whole labeling initiative in the first place), but there must be a number… so why wasn’t that number discussed?
Beyond that, where are the other organizations and experts? Where’s the independent review of data? Who was commissioned to look at this and to treat it seriously because it effects millions of people, and hundreds of millions of acres of crops… where’s the real due diligence?
Instead of anything along those lines, we were left with handful of people and an FDA spokesperson who often responded to questions with answers like “Not to my knowledge” and “Not that I’m aware of” – real confidence boosters to be sure.
SILENCE ON THE “G” WORD
Last of all on this point, there’s one word that was the giant yet oh so silent elephant in that hearing room for the 2nd hearing back in June. It’s a word that was never mentioned, not even once… and that word is of course glyphosate. How do you have a hearing concerning GMO labeling without discussing what the World Health Organization released on glyphosate back in March. “Probably carcinogenic to humans” is not very subtle, and I would think, as a governing body that’s supposed to look out for the well being of the people it represents, you might want to talk about this. And for me, that’s what sealed these two hearings as just one big show, because after everything else, no one even mentioned glyphosate.
Glyphosate resistant crops are the #1 GMO type in the world, and yet the US House of Representatives can’t even utter the G word once in their final hearing before passing what they have the nerve to call “Safe and Accurate Labeling” legislation. How do you not talk about glyphosate?
In part 2 of this post, we’ll discuss what HR 1599 actually does, but for now, recognizing these hearings for what they were, one big show, will at least help set the stage for the results…