Published on: February 23, 2016
Yesterday, MNB took note of a report in The Hill
that "Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has unveiled legislation to pre-empt states from issuing their own mandatory labeling laws for foods that contain genetically modified ingredients." The bill would require "the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered, or GMO, foods."
Trade groups lined up to support the Roberts proposal, with plenty of opposition from pro-labeling forces.
I commented:It is worth noting, I think, that Sen. Roberts in the past has come out against any federal intrusion into the rights of states of make decisions about education policy. And, he's come out against any federal intrusion into the rights of states to legalize marijuana. So it is fair to say that he's a states' rights guy except when he's not. I'd love to know how much money he's received, either directly or through political action committees, from the biotech industry.
MNB reader Bruce Wesbury responded:KC, two things on the labeling article.
Does anyone feel the need to fact check “93 percent of Americans want GMO labeling”. Sounds to me like it’s the same group that claimed 97 percent of scientist agree that global warming is true.
I’m willing to bet that Hillary Clinton has taken 100 times more money from Wall Street than Roberts has taken from Biotech firms. So it’s fair to say Hillary is for Wall Street except when she’s not.
I would probably share a general skepticism of both the 93 percent and the 97 percent numbers ... enough so that I cannot remember making a big deal out of either of them on MNB. (I may have, though. I can't really remember.)
I'd be skeptical of the 93 percent number mostly because it all depends on who gets asked the question and how the question is asked. I would be willing to bet that if you did a survey in which you asked people if it is important that labels accurately reflect what is in their food, a majority probably would say yes. But this, of course, would not address the conflict .... since pro-GMO forces would argue that there is no difference.
As I've said here many, many times, I'm generally agnostic on the subject of GMOs in food. But I respect the desire of people who want to know if GMOs are in their foods, and a little suspicious about companies that think information equals condemnation. I think that if the labels are on foods - and I'd be perfectly happy with having the info embedded in QR codes - it provides companies with the ability to educate consumers about why they are important and necessary.
Would I prefer a national mandate rather than a state-by-state approach? Yes. But the folks who oppose a state-by state approach are, to my mind, disingenuous ... because the only really the states are even taking up the issue is because of the forces that don't want them at the national level either.
As for the percentage of scientists who believe that climate change is a real thing and not a liberal fiction/fantasy ... well, I'm willing to accept NASA's position on the subject, which is that climate change is real and a threat. My sense of it is that a majority of scientists feel that way, with some estimates being as high as nine out of 10. I'm perfectly willing to believe that a percentage of scientists can be wrong and/or bought off by people and/or companies that have a stake in being climate change deniers ... after all, the tobacco companies had no problem getting at least some scientists to say that tobacco does not cause cancer.
And I know that some will eviscerate me for saying any of this. Which is fine.
Another MNB user wrote:Kevin, I was not surprised by your cynical view of Rep. Roberts proposed legislation to pre-empt states from passing their own version of GMO labeling laws. To me it makes no sense to have a state by state labeling laws that would create an unworkable environment for national CPG companies to monitor and comply with. I do agree the solution is not a “national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered, or GMO, foods” as proposed by Rep. Roberts, but should provide for a mandatory solution that is well crafted, specific, and provides the consumer the needed information to make an informed decision at the POS. A win/win is not hard to find and should have strong bi-partisan support.
Except that it doesn't.
MNB user Michael Phelan wrote:What’s my view? The $21,150 in donations to Sen. Pat Roberts from Berkshire Hathaway is an example of the hundreds of corporate donors who are currently leasing our government and legislators at the federal and state levels. The agriculture and food industries respective statewide “lobbying” efforts must have failed with this one, but our Congress always takes cash and is one-stop shopping for the multinational conglomerates who also happen to feed us.
MNB user Tom Herman wrote:There are regulations and laws that individual states implement that have nothing to do with interstate commerce and they should be able to set their own regulations and laws based on the will of the people in their states. This is obviously not one of them. Take off your liberal hat for a minute and think about the impact this would have on manufacturers and suppliers in the food chain if each state had their own labeling laws. It would be a disaster of biblical proportions. I think you may be reacting to the voluntary part because a federal standard is needed. There are obviously things that the federal government shouldn’t be involved in and there are things they should. I don’t know anyone that advocates to leave everything to the federal government or leave everything to the states and the local level. People can have a healthy discussion on where those lines are drawn. I see no federal implications if people in one community with its own elected officials on their school board or state representatives want to have more control over the education of their children. Decisions that don’t affect interstate commerce and the like should be decided at the lowest possible level, not by the so called elite in Washington DC. Do you want a President Trump telling you how to educate your children. I know I don’t…
MNB user Jackie Lembke wrote:I don’t know if Sen. Pat Roberts receives campaign funds from any “Big Food” group, although it wouldn’t surprise me. He does come from a state with a heavy agricultural emphasis so wanting a federal solution to the GMO labeling would not be outside his political scope. It almost seems like this is a little late to the party as the Vermont law goes into effect on July 1. I am doubtful anything can be accomplished before then, I could be wrong. I believe a federal solution is the right answer, but something needed to happen when the first labeling initiatives were introduced. At this point to meet the deadline most food companies will need something in place quickly, either bite the bullet and label GMO, go GMO free, or not sell GMO food in the state of Vermont.
We also took note yesterday of an Associated Press
report that industry groups from Vermont to Michigan sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) complaining about companies that label foods as "maple" but don't actually contain any: "They say products such as Quaker Oats Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal and Hood maple walnut ice cream are misbranded in violation of FDA regulations because maple syrup is not listed on their labels. Quaker Oats said it did not have a comment, and a Hood spokeswoman said she was seeking more information but could not confirm if the ice cream’s flavor was derived from real maple syrup."
I commented:This is just as bad as when we find out that some parmesan cheese manufacturers have been adding cellulose, a food additive made from wood, as a filler. I am thoroughly disgusted when products said to be made from "maple and brown sugar" don't have any real maple, or when products with the word "blueberry" in their names don't have any actual blueberries. And so forth. It is just a lie ... and I think that the national mood is working against such companies and such products.
One MNB user reacted:As a career professional in the food industry, this has always bothered me. Current FDA regulations permit manufacturers to simply state "flavored" in very small print on the package when in fact the product does not contain any of the key flavor ingredients. Imagery, product name and other flavor "cues" may scream "blueberry" but if the consumer takes the time to read the ingredient statement, they will discover that the product does not contain blueberry. We're not eating food anymore, we're eating contrived substitutes that are cheaper, have a longer shelf life and are controllable in a manufacturing environment. The American food industry is rife with manufactured products that bear no resemblance to foods of a bygone era. I look forward to the day when the FDA cracks down on this deceptive practice and rewrites the regulations.