Koch-funded Rep’s voluntary GMO label bill aids Big Food, biotech, to stop laws in 27 states
Wednesday, a bill was introduced in the US House to define a national standard and associated policies in relation to the disclosure of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) which would be largely voluntary in terms of meaningful participation. The bill called the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” favors large conglomerates, which produce and sell heavily processed and packaged foods in America increasingly seen as unhealthy, by allowing the continued use of GMO ingredients with no warning to consumers.
In the past 2 years, processed food manufacturers and distributors as well as biotech companies like Monsanto who license GMO crops, have been working with lobbyist groups on a national campaign to create these favorable laws at the federal level of the US government. The campaign is designed to prevent individual states from passing laws that would mandate labels and other regulation of GMO crops, which would in essence protect profits and resist positive change.
The proposed structure of laws and the intended goals has been no secret since at least November 2013 and now has officially been submitted as a bill by the ‘corporate business friendly Koch Brothers backed’ Congressman Mike Pompeo from Kansas.
A Republican congressman from Kansas introduced legislation on Wednesday that would nullify efforts in multiple states to require labeling of genetically modified foods
The bill, dubbed the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” was drafted by U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo from Kansas, and is aimed at overriding bills in roughly two dozen states that would require foods made with genetically engineered crops to be labeled as such.
The bill specifically prohibits any mandatory labeling of foods developed using bioengineering.
The debate over GMO foods has emerged from lonely corners of the internet to reach the national spotlight after concerned activists have spread awareness of the dominant presence of genetically modified crops in the United States food supply. Biotech and corporate food processors have hidden the use of GMO crops for 20 years from Americans while using legalese wordplay to prevent labeling and meaningful regulation at the national level which has allowed over 75% of the US food supply to be tainted by GMO ingredients. The exposure of GMO and subsequent backlash has been a result of initiatives like the March Against Monsanto which has fueled resistance to the crony capitalist cooperation that controls US food production. As a result, a critical mass of people are aware of the processes and Americans in more than half the 50 states have used local state resources to propose laws that would provide protection where the federal government has failed in the form of mandatory label laws and GMO bans.
In response to the public relations problems, the network of food processors and commercial outlets has rallied lobbyist groups to usurp the entire movement of local laws to create a minimal “voluntary” national label standard. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), who’s members include the largest processed and packaged food brands as well as stores that sell the products, has led efforts to oppose label laws in various states, along with other groups that mainly focus on the profit stream of food production. The state label campaigns in California and Washington proved to be fairly expensive to stop. Washington’s label fight took “$22 million in donations from food and agricultural companies — including a $7.2 million contribution from the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, funded by a number of processed and packaged food brands” according to Salon.
A more accurate picture was noted by Center for Food Safety.
Koch Industries’ subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, is a member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association which donated more than $7 million against the recent Washington State ballot initiative to label GE foods. Monsanto, another GMA member, was the single largest contributor to that campaign. Between Washington State and California, Monsanto, GMA (including Georgia-Pacific), and others, have contributed over $67 million to keep consumers in the dark about GE foods.
If that amount were applied on average to the 50 states, the tally would top $1 billion, an unsustainable amount for corporate balance sheets, dictating the need for a comprehensive plan to oppose labels from the top down.
The next major steps in the progression of preventing GMO labels was to create a bill framework using the combined lobbying power to leverage federal control assets into maintaining an environment friendly to processed GMO foods and find a willing Congressional sponsor to champion the cause.
The GMO food lobby found its sponsor in Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo.
The Coalition said in February that it would seek to empower the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “to establish federal standards for companies that want to voluntarily label their product for the absence-of or presence-of GMO food ingredients.” In addition, the Coalition proposes the FDA mandate labels for GMO food or ingredients that the agency deems a “health, safety or nutrition issue,” though no consumables currently fall in such a category.
“The legislation we’re proposing would preclude state legislation that conflicts with the federal standards,” GMA president Pamela Bailey said of the Coalition’s aim, The Hill reported.
Federal standards like the ones the Coalition has called for are necessary to “guard against a costly, unnecessary and inefficient state-by-state system,” a November memo among the GMA-led industry groups said.
Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas, has numerous ties to Charles and David Koch, heads of the formidable multinational corporation Koch Industries.
Meet Mike Pompeo: The Congressional Candidate Spawned By The ‘Kochtopus’
Not all shady corporate funded politicians are created equal and Pompeo is a fine example.
Pompeo isn’t just another Wall Street-friendly, pro-polluter GOP radical (his initial response to the BP oil disaster was to say that he “fervently” hoped the government wouldn’t “overreact”), he is essentially a subsidiary of the Koch brothers’ business empire:
– Pompeo developed much of his wealth from a firm he founded, Thayer Aerospace, which he ran with investment funds from Koch Industries. According to a December 11, 1998 article in the Wichita Business Journal, “[Pompeo’s] company’s capital base is drawn in part from Wichita’s Koch Venture Capital, a division of Koch Industries.” Pompeo sold Thayer in 2006.
– Pompeo still relies on Koch for his private wealth. After the sale of Thayer, Pompeo became the President of Sentry International, a business specializing in the manufacture and sale of equipment used in oilfields. Sentry International is a partner to Koch Industries through its Brazilian distributor, GTF Representacoes & Consultoria.
– Pompeo won his Republican primary largely with the support of Koch Industries’ PAC, which gave him one of his largest endorsements in March. Despite the fact that Koch Industries is the recipient of tens of millions in federal contracts, Pompeo boasted about the endorsement: “The employees of the Koch Companies have jobs here in the Wichita because of their own hard work and creativity, not because a federal agency deemed it to be so.”
– With $31,400 in contributions from KOCHPAC, Koch Industries is by far the greatest contributor to Pompeo’s campaign. The second largest contributor, the law firm Bartlit Beck LLP, gave $7,200 to the campaign. As ThinkProgress first uncovered, Koch Industries also works with Democracy Data & Communications, a firm specializing in helping major corporations to activate their employees politically.
– Pompeo has leaned on Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the right-wing Tea Party group founded and financed by David Koch. On August 28, 2009, Pompeo spoke at a large Tea Party rally organized by AFP, and AFP has used its extensive Kansas-based staff to mobilize dozens of other right-wing events in and around the 4th Congressional District. In addition to the rallies and Tea Party events, AFP has touted Pompeo for signing onto its pledge to ignore climate change. The Kansas chapter of AFP was previously run by Alan Cobb, who once served as a chief lobbyist for Koch Industries. Cobb is now coordinating state efforts nationwide for AFP.
– According to his campaign biography, Pompeo’s only substantive political experience appears to be his stint as a trustee of the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy, a Koch-organized front formerly known as the Kansas Policy Institute. The Flint Hills Center for Public Policy is staffed primarily with Koch-funded operatives and economists, like Art Hall. Until recently, George Pearson — a libertarian activist who began working for the Koch brothers in the early seventies — chaired the board of the Center. In an interview with the Wichita Eagle, Pompeo said he supports Social Security privatization and explained that his ideas for health reform came from Koch’s Flint Hills Center.
Pompeo has carried the corporate propaganda line openly with an assertive statement rich in disinformation and political doublespeak posted on his official website.
Reps. Mike Pompeo and G. K. Butterfield introduced a bill today creating federal standards for food labeling in order to keep American-produced food safe, nutritious, and affordable. The bipartisan federal solution, named the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014” (HR 4432) would protect consumers by eliminating confusion and advancing food safety.
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 would establish a federal labeling standard for foods with genetically modified ingredients, giving sole authority to the Food and Drug Administration to require mandatory labeling on such foods if they are ever found to be unsafe or materially different from foods produced without GM ingredients.
“From the Kansas farmer’s harvest to a Kansas family’s table, our food supply is crucial to our economy, to our health, and to our way of life,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo. “The Sunflower State has relied on technological advances in order to feed the world, and this bill would ensure our continued success in providing safe, affordable, and nutritious food.”
“This bill has resounding support from the North Carolina Farm Bureau and the agriculture community at-large,” said Rep. G. K. Butterfield. “It prevents a mishmash of labeling standards and allows farmers to continue to produce higher yields of healthy crops in smaller spaces with less water and fewer pesticides. If passed, this will be a big win for farmers nationwide.”
The legislation takes an approach that is far better than a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling laws that could mislead consumers, raise the price of groceries for American families and yet do nothing to advance food safety.
GMOs are safe and have a number of important benefits for people and our planet. GMO crops use less water and fewer pesticides and reduce the price of crops by 15-30 percent. They also help us feed a global population of 7 billion that will grow to 9 billion by 2050, especially providing assistance to those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Contrary to claims by activists, there is no scientific evidence that suggests foods that contain GMOs are anything but safe.
Pompeo’s endorsement of the efforts in relation to the concern of preventing “a patchwork quilt of food labeling requirements” is deceptively worded for public relations even as the GMA and other lobby groups also calls on FDA to define ‘natural’ to include GM food” on labels.
“We’ve got a number of states that are attempting to put together a patchwork quilt of food labeling requirements with respect to genetic modification of foods,” said Pompeo. “That makes it enormously difficult to operate a food system. Some of the campaigns in some of these states aren’t really to inform consumers but rather aimed at scaring them. What this bill attempts to do is set a standard.”
The corporate food production network wants to play word games on food labels to keep Americans from asking questions about the processing methods related to most of the products sold in US supermarkets. Salon’s Lindsay Abrams calls it what it is, a political power play which removes the debate from productive venues and limits it to the same federal venue which originally kept it from being discussed.
Pompeo’s bill conveniently prevents anyone from discussing the many nuances of the debate, taking the decision out of the states’ — and consumers’ — hands.
Why is this national effort happening now?
Time is running short for both sides as activists continue to make gains and the corporate powers behind the GMO campaign look to implement larger measures. The movements in individual states to require labeling of GMO ingredients is in response to the lack of action at the federal level which has been obstructed by large lobbyist groups in favor of the status quo production of food by major corporate conglomerates. There are now movements in more than half of the 50 states.
Backers of mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically modified crops said the bill is a sign that the GMA – the grocers’ group – and biotech seed developers fear growing consumer distrust of GMO foods.
“They know that the food movement’s power is growing and that labeling is not a matter of if but when.” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for the Center for Food Safety, a non-profit group that supports mandatory GMO labeling.
“They are afraid of state action and now they’re trying to steal away consumer choice in Congress,” he said.
There are currently 66 active bills and ballot initiatives in process in 27 states to require labeling of foods made with GMOs, according to the Environmental Working Group, which is tracking the measures.
GMO Geopolitics and International trends
Is it a coincidence that big money interests have aligned to fight GMO labels? It is weaved into foreign policy. Why? Is it really for altruistic food aid to the “third world”?
New Analysis of Wikileaks Shows State Department’s Promotion of Monsanto’s GMOs Abroad
July 2013: GMO Activists and Independent Scientists Targeted by US Military
A more troublesome trend for biotech giants is the growing international consensus in opposition to GMO crops in the form of various bans in dozens of countries. The individual countries in Europe have largely taken steps against GMO crops including France which has changed course numerous times and now has decided ban GMO corn varieties despite pressure from the European Union. Russia recently noted intentions to ban GMO crops, following mass opposition which actually began before the Ukraine situation, ironically considering Ukraine has very fertile agricultural assets. China has been involved in this geopolitical struggle as well as they have been increasing imports of non-GMO corn from Ukraine.
Jan 2014: China Rejecting U.S. GMO Corn as First Shipment From Ukraine Arrives
Does it make sense now that Monsanto would be a part of the US-Ukraine Business Council which has publically admitted spending $5 billion for their cause?
The lack of oversight and reports of numerous unauthorized field trials (16 states?) has led to crops being rejected for fears of contamination (China, Japan).
May 2013: Hungary torches 500 hectares of GM corn to eradicate GMOs from food supply
June 2013: Unauthorized genetically-modified flax found to have been exported to more than 30 countries around the world
Genetically modified soybeans have been found in northern Belize
July 2013: Unapproved genetically-modified rice trials in U.S. have contaminated the world’s rice supply
Feb 2014: Smithsonian: GMO soybean pollen threatens Mexican honey sales, Germany rejects shipment
Resistance in South, Central America is growing and in some cases proving to be more productive.
Jan 2014: Activists Halt Monsanto Seed Plant Construction in Argentina
March 2014 History Made: Brazilian Court Says No to Bayer GMO Corn, Sets New Legal Precedence
Africa as well.
Dec 2013: African Churches Warn against Rush to Introduce GM Crops
March 2014: South Africa: MONSANTO FORCED TO WITHDRAW UNSUBSTANTIATED ADVERTISING CLAIMS ON BENEFITS OF GM CROPS
April 2014: Leading Nigerian politician pushes for bio-safety law
These are just a fraction of the examples of increasing resistance to the corporate takeover of the global food supply, visit the WTF News GMO archive for more. Valid fields of science like genetic engineering is one thing but a global, corporatized, homogenized food supply is entirely different.
The incestuous nature of geopolitical and corporate partnerships in relation to GMOs is relatively obvious once one considers the totality of the circumstances around them.
Here is a reminder.