Why is Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) trying to pass a national labelling law for genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)? Well, to appease Europe of course.
From the American Farm Bureau to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a lot of the people who run America’s food system say we need Pompeo’s bill to stop the spread of a patchwork of state-level GMO labelling laws. But it’s not as though these laws have been a runaway success. Many were voted down, and the ones that passed face court challenges, leading many to suggest Pompeo’s bill is like taking a sledgehammer to a fly.
Whatever happened to informing voters before they go to the ballot box? And why isn’t Pompeo invoking the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution (Article I, § 8) which precludes states from interfering in interstate commerce?
Rick Tolman, former CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, says stopping local anti-GMO measures is only part of Pompeo’s goal. America’s trade relations also have to be considered. But how exactly does a law that applies only to Americans bear upon our trade relations?
"Nothing but a front"
Alas, it turns out the GMO-labelling portion of Pompeo’s bill is nothing but a front. It’s actually an international trade bill in disguise. Buried within H.R. 1599 is the following:
The Secretary shall promulgate regulations to specify a maximum permissible level of food consisting of a bioengineered organism that may be inadvertently present in food bearing claims [that bioengineering was not used]. (SEC. 425, emphasis added.)
A threshold limit on something renders it a potential contaminant, and you can rest assured America would not be the world leader in GMO farming today had GMO crops been labelled as contaminants when introduced in the 1990s. This codification of a maximum permissible level will make it possible, for the first time ever in America, for organic farmers to sue their neighbors when their neighbors’ GMO crops “contaminate” their organic crop above that level.
But if GMOs actually pose a threat to organic crops, would it not behoove Pompeo to include the precise point at which this threat becomes reality? Instead, the bill leaves it to “The Secretary,” a political appointee, to “promulgate regulations” after this law is passed, reminiscent of when Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of Obamacare that "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
The reason Pompeo avoids being specific is because he knows full well any such limit will be arbitrary. GMOs pose no threat to organic crops. Nonetheless, here's the European Union’s regulation that will be cribbed in order to maintain America’s trade relations with anti-GMO nations:
Organic production outlaws the use of genetically modified organisms. However, the regulation on genetically modified food and feed lays down a threshold (0.9%) under which a product's GMO content does not have to be indicated. [Only] Products with GMO content below this threshold can be labelled organic.
And that, my friends, is how you screw American GMO farmers while facilitating “regulatory cooperation” with Europe, Japan, China and Russia.
Elitist leaders in these anti-GMO nations prevent their farmers from growing GMOs even as they import millions of tons of GMOs from America every year. And they have now managed to force a Republican and a Democrat (G.K. Butterfield) to join hands here in America to pass a law that ostensibly allows for the voluntary labelling of GMO foods, but which is really designed to force America to adopt a European-style, make-believe threshold limit on GMOs in organic food.
An American invention
America invented GMOs. And we’re the leader in this field precisely because we do not have a threshold limit on GMO content. Why would we? Even European scientists say GMOs are perfectly safe. As such, American organic stakeholders agreed not to set a threshold limit for GMO “contamination” of an organic crop back in 1997 during President Clinton’s second term when America’s National Organic Program (NOP) was written.
Synthetic pesticides, by contrast, do have a threshold limit because they can be dangerous. But GMOs are not. So American organic farmers are only prevented from making use of GMOs, and can’t claim damage from them. And by all accounts, this arrangement has served the American organic industry very well, resulting in “remarkable growth domestically and globally.”
But, alas, activists want more. They want it all in fact. And by caving in to them, Pompeo and Butterfield are not only trashing the 2002 bipartisan Act of Congress that passed America’s NOP into law; they’re also putting the future of every American GMO farm on the line, while providing a huge disincentive for researchers to develop new GMO crops. Indeed, where are the farmers crazy enough to grow new GMO crops when the threat of a lawsuit hangs over their heads?
GMO labelling is bad for America whether at the state or federal level, which is why organic activists are so muted in their opposition to Pompeo’s bill. It plays right into their hands.
Mischa Popoff is a former organic farmer and USDA-contract organic inspector, and is the author of "Is it Organic?"
Why is Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) trying to pass a national labelling law for genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)? Well, to appease E...