As the 2012 Farm Bill (S. 3240) moves to the Senate floor for a vote, Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced an amendment (SA 2256) requiring genetically engineered foods to be labeled.
Sanders gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, saying Americans have a basic "right to know what they're eating and feeding their families."
He pointed to the powerful corporations, mostly Monsanto, that are preventing this basic right from being codified. In his own state of Vermont, state legislators didn't pass a GMO labeling law - that 90% of the state supports - because they were threatened by lawsuits. The same thing happened in Connecticut recently.
Some of the facts he discussed:
- almost 50 countries require GMO labels
- 93% of pregnant women contain genetically engineered Bt toxin in their blood.
- Monsanto's Roundup tolerant GMOs have led to the rise of superweeds that now infest more than 10 million acres in 22 states - predicted to reach 40 million acres by mid-decade. That's leading to approval of even more toxic GMOs like Agent Orange corn.
This week, the California Secretary of State's office announced the referendum on GMO labeling in California, the "Right to Know" initiative, will be on the ballot this November. The historic initiative would be the first GMO labeling law in the US.
There is also a move to get a referendum on Oregon's ballot.
Industries are fighting back through the "Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition," arguing labels would increase food prices. Besides Monsanto and the GMO industry, food companies that use GMOs ingredients in products are against labeling, including Pepsi, Kraft, Kellogg's and others. They market so-called "natural" foods that sell at premium prices that rival those of non-GMO and organic foods - even though they contain GMOs.
One million people submitted comments to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a petition for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, more than any other petition in FDA history. 20 states have tried to legislate GMO labeling, but none have succeeded due to intense opposition from corporate special interests.
Polls show nearly unanimous support (91%) across the political spectrum for labeling GMOs.
If the referendum passes, major food companies say they would remove all GMO ingredients from their products - as they did in Europe - rather than label food with what consumers might regard as a skull and crossbones.
More on the Farm Bill
The Organic Consumers Association says: "Ever wonder why organic foods are relatively more expensive and sometimes hard to find, while Monsanto and biotech-derived junk foods are cheap and omnipresent?
It's because of a federal law known as the Farm Bill that uses billions of dollars of our tax money every year to subsidize factory farms, biotech crops, and chemical agriculture.
The Farm Bill is also a major reason why obesity, diet-related disease and health care costs are skyrocketing. It's partly why food production is responsible for more than half of greenhouse gas emissions and farm run-off is fouling drinking water and creating dead-zones in the ocean."
As currently written, the Farm Bill cuts spending $23.6 billion over 10 years. It leaves Big Ag subsidies unscathed, and raises funds for biofuels, while cutting important conservation programs, research on organics and beginning farmer programs, and nutritional programs such as Food Stamps.
Here are the amendments which would benefit small, organic farmers, jobs and animals.
It's a Subsidy Buffet for Agribiz, Table Scraps for Good Food, says the Environmental Working Group: