How Monsanto Is Using Cronies in Congress to Take Away States' Rights to Label Genetically Modified Foods
Photo Credit: Lightspring/Shuttersock.com
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Reliable sources in Washington D.C. have informed the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) that Monsanto has begun secretly lobbying its Congressional allies to attach one or more “Monsanto Riders” or amendments to the 2013 Farm Bill that would preempt or prohibit states from requiring labels on genetically engineered (GE) foods.
In response to this blatant violation of states’ rights to legislate, and consumers’ right to know, the OCA and a nationwide alliance have launched a petition to put every member of Congress on notice: If you support any Farm Bill amendment that would nullify states’ rights to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs), we’ll vote – or throw – you out of office.
On Wednesday, May 15, an amendment (the King Amendment) to the House version of the Farm Bill, inserted under the guise of protecting interstate commerce, passed out of the House Agricultural Committee. If the King Amendment makes it into the final Farm Bill, it would take away states’ rights to pass laws governing the production or manufacture of any agricultural product, including food and animals raised for food, that is involved in interstate commerce. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), largely in response to a California law stating that by 2015, California will allow only eggs to be sold from hens housed in cages specified by California. But policy analysts emphasize that the amendment, broadly and ambiguously written, could be used to prohibit or preempt any state GMO labeling or food safety law.
Will the King Amendment survive the Senate? No one can be sure, say analysts. However few doubt that Monsanto will give up. We can expect that more amendments and riders will be introduced into the Farm Bill--even if the King Amendment fails—over the next month in an attempt to stop the wave of state GMO labeling laws and initiatives moving forward in states like Washington, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and others.
Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have admitted privately that they’ve “lost the battle” to stop GE food labeling at the state level, now that states are aggressively moving forward on labeling laws. On May 14, Maine’s House Ag Committee passed a GMO labeling law. On May 10, the Vermont House passed a labeling bill, 99-42, despite massive lobbying by Monsanto and threats to sue the state. And though Monsanto won a razor-thin victory (51 percent to 49 percent) in a costly, hard fought California GMO labeling ballot initiative last November, biotech and Big Food now realize that Washington State voters will likely pass I-522, an upcoming ballot initiative to label GE foods, on November 5.
If Monsanto can’t stop states from passing laws, then the next step is a national preemptive measure. And all signs point to just such a power grab. Earlier this year, Monsanto slipped its extremely unpopular “Monsanto Protection Act,” an act that gives biotech immunity from federal prosecution for planting illegally approved GE crops, into the 2013 Federal Appropriations Bill. During the June 2012 Farm Bill debate, 73 U.S. Senators voted against the right of states to pass mandatory GE food labeling laws. Emboldened by these votes, and now the House Ag Committee’s vote on the King Amendment, Monsanto has every reason to believe Congress would support a potential nullification of states’ rights to label.
The million-strong OCA and its allies in the organic and natural health movement are warning incumbent Senators and House members, Democrats and Republicans alike, that thousands of health and environmental-minded constituents in their Congressional districts or states will work to recall them or drive them out of office if they fail to heed the will of the people and to respect the time-honored traditions of shared state sovereignty over food labels, food safety laws, and consumers’ right to know.