February 23, 2020

Sen. Jeff Merkley Discusses GMO Labeling on Senate Floor Again on Thursday- Transcript

Categories: Biotech

For the second day in a row, Senator Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) discussed GMO labeling issues on the Senate floor, a recap and transcript of his remarks from Wednesday can be found here.

Recall that the Senate Ag Committee has passed a GMO labeling measure, while Sen. Merkly has co-sponsored an alternative measure on GMO labeling.

A complete transcript of Sen. Merkley’s remarks from yesterdaycan be found here.

In part, Sen. Merkely noted that, “Ultimately, I will conclude—to give a preface here—that this is not a debate about the pros and cons [of GMOs]. There is information on both sides, different aspects. What is at debate is whether our Federal Government wants to be the large, overbearing presence in the lives of Americans and tell them what to think, or whether we believe in our citizens’ ability to use their own minds and make their own decisions.  To be able to do that, they have to be able to know when there are genetically modified ingredients in the foods they are consuming.”

Sen. Merkley noted: “So the question is this: Does our government—the big hand of the Federal Government—reach out and say to our cities, our counties, and our States that there is only one answer to this and that is why we are going to ban you from letting citizens know what is in their food…[T]hey want to tell you how to think. They are supporting a bill that says the Federal Government will take one side of this argument and tell you it is the truth and spend your tax dollars publicizing it.”

Sen. Merkley also discussed some alternative ideas to labeling food such as providing a phone number on the package or putting a scannable label on products that can be read by smartphones.  With respect to these ideas he noted that, “Well, first, Americans don’t want to stand there in the grocery store and start making phone calls to companies…[T]here is another idea floating around here: Put a computer code on the product, and people can scan it with their smartphone and get information. Well, this may be even more ludicrous than the phone idea in terms of stripping the power of American citizens’ right to know.”

He also discussed a 2015 survey of the labeling issue and pointed out that, “The question that was asked of the participants was this: As you may know, it has been proposed that the Food and Drug Administration, or the FDA, require foods that have been genetically engineered or contain genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled to indicate that. Would you favor or oppose requiring labels for foods that have been genetically engineered or contain genetically engineered ingredients?

“After the respondent gives the answer, then the follow-up question is this: Is that strongly or not so strongly? Well, 89 percent of Americans say they favor mandatory labels on foods that have genetically modified ingredients. That is powerful. That is nine 9 of 10 Americans.”

In conclusion, Sen. Merkley stated that, “If you are going to step on the authority of States to provide information that citizens want, you have to provide a simple, clear, indication on the package. That is the deal. That is the fair compromise. That is standing up for citizens’ right to know. That is honoring the public interest. That is a compromise in the classic sense that works for the big issues the companies are talking about. They don’t want the expense from individual States and they don’t want the complexity and confusion from individual States. What consumers want is a simple indication on the package.

“Let’s do the right thing. Let’s not be worse than China and block our consumers from having access to information. Let’s do the right thing that virtually every developed country has done and provide a simple, clear system for citizens to be able to know what is in their food.”