New US laws to regulate GM foods

January 2012

Rally for the Right2Know About GMOs March 26, 2011
Rally for the Right2Know About GMOs, Washington DC, USA
Photo by Millions Against Monsanto on Flickr
Up until now, the biotech industry has succeeded in blocking just about every attempt to introduce honest labelling of GMOs in the USA. The result is that 74% of Americans don't know they're eating GM foods at all, and their food supply is being steadily polluted with both legal and experimental genes.

However, awareness is gradually spreading. The voices of dissent are beginning to shout in unison from Washington to San Francisco, and the scene is set for some new legislation which won't so easily be lobbied into oblivion by industry.

Congressman, Dennis Kucinich, is introducing a package of bills to put in place a comprehensive regulatory framework for all GM plants, animals (including fish), bacteria and any other organisms.

His reasons are clear:
“Since GE crops were first approved, the concerns about their very real threat to farmers have become widespread and the questions about the safety of eating GE organisms have steadily grown. Meanwhile the industry has resisted objective study of the issue. To this day biotechnology companies are largely allowed to self-regulate. Enough is enough ...”
“We must take steps to prevent genetically engineered organisms from being grown in a way that could do irreversible damage to our food supply. Under pressure from profit-minded industry, we have already allowed the spread of genetically modified crops into our agriculture at great cost to our economy and with unknown effects on our bodies.”
One key bill being introduced is HR 3553, 'The Genetic Engineering Food Right to Know Act'. This will, for the first time, require GM foods to be clearly labelled. It will also require the Food and Drug Administration to periodically test products to ensure compliance.

Kucinich said: 
“The American people are demanding a right to know. My legislation puts the onus on Congress to be responsive to the will of the people. It gives the power to consumers to make an informed choice about the products they consume ... (and) ... will finally allow informed consumers to make their own decisions and vote with their wallets.”
Another very important Bill to be presented is HR 3554, 'The Genetic Engineering Safety Act'. This Bill will prohibit the open air cultivation of GM crops for the generation of pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals. It will also prohibit the use of human food or animal feed plants as the host plants for such chemical production. HR 3554 heralds an important change in regulatory attitude: the Department of Agriculture has allowed more than 300 outdoor field trials of plants, including all the major feed crops (corn, soya, rice, barley, alfalfa, wheat) and other food crops, which have been genetically transformed to produce experimental pharmaceuticals, industrial enzymes and novel proteins. (If you're not sure what the problem is with these, check out THE RISKS OF 'PHARM' RICE - December 2011)

HR 3554 also provides for a tracking system to control the growing, handling, transportation and disposal of such crops.

Kucinich said: 
“We cannot rely on industry to prevent the unintended spread of genetically engineered organisms ... When you are talking about the safety and stability of the food supply, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
And ...

In neighbouring Canada, another major adopter of GM-by-stealth, pressure is increasing to label the GM food it has quietly allowed to go on sale.

Despite a parliamentary commission recommendation for obligatory labelling of GM foods plus a system for tracking the origins of produce which was unanimously adopted by the Canadian National Assembly in 2004, nothing has been implemented. Health Canada, the government department responsible for GM safety, clings to the familiar public sedation exercise by claiming that “no GM food is allowed on the market in Canada unless Health Canada's scientists are satisfied that the food is safe and nutritious”. The department has also side-stepped any responsibility for informing the public by introducing a voluntary labelling scheme. Since the discovery of GM Bt toxins in foetuses and pregnant women, and in light of Health Canada's approval of Syngenta's GM 'Attribute' Bt-generating sweetcorn to be eaten fresh, GM concern groups there are demanding that the 2004 GM-labelling recommendations be adopted by 2012.

What you can do

If you have friends or relatives in the USA, suggest they contact their Representative to cosponsor the 'Genetic Engineering Food Right to Know Act'. They can do that by visiting The Organic Consumers Association to take part in the campaign.

If you have friends or relatives in Canada, tell them there's a petition about GM food labelling on the National Assembly website.

  • Kucinich: Allow Consumers to Make Informed Choices, Congressman Dennis J Kucinich press release, 5.12.11
  • Kucinich: Protect Our Food Supply from Manufactured Crises, Congressman Dennis J Kucinich press release, 9.12.11
  • Michelle Lalonde, Launch petition calling for mandatory labelling, Montreal Gazette 26.09.11
  • Hundreds rally in Washington to demand GMO labeling, Xinhua News, 16.10.11
  • Rob Rogers, At DC rally, West Marin's Straus pushes for food labeling, Marin Independent Journal 16.10.11
  • Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, The GE Emperor as No Clothes!, PANNA 14.10.11

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