Reposted with permission from the Organic Consumer Association.
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) called on all members of Congress to reject the King Amendment and any other amendments or riders to the 2013 Farm Bill that would take away states' rights to enact laws requiring the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The OCA also launched a national petition asking consumers to tell their Congress members that if they pass a Farm Bill with the King Amendment, or other similar riders or amendments, their constituents will vote — or throw — them out of office.
"If the King Amendment survives, and is included in the 2013 Farm Bill, it will wipe out more than 150 state laws governing agriculture, food and food safety," said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the OCA. "The biotech industry knows that it's only a matter of time before Washington State, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and other states pass GMO labeling laws. Rather than fight this battle in every state, Monsanto is trying to manipulate Congress to pass a Farm Bill that will wipe out citizens' rights to state laws intended to protect their health and safety."
The King Amendment, inserted into the Farm Bill under the guise of protecting interstate commerce, passed out of the House Agricultural Committee on Wednesday, May 15. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), largely in response to a California law stating that by 2015, California will allow only eggs to be sold from hens housed in cages specified by California. But policy analysts emphasize that the amendment, broadly and ambiguously written, could be used to prohibit or preempt any state GMO labeling or food safety law.
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) testified on May 15 against the King Amendment. He said:
"I oppose the King Amendment because the amendment takes away important authorities from the states and gives them exclusively to the federal government. The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution firmly establishes states' rights and many states represented by members of the House Agriculture Committee use their state sovereignty to enact laws that protect their citizens from invasive pests, livestock diseases, maintain quality standards for dairy products, ensure food safety and unadulterated seed products. While this list is by no means exhaustive, even a cursory look at state laws regulating agriculture reveals that laws in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Wisconsin and California, will potentially be nullified by the King Amendment."
Sources in Washington D.C. have told the OCA that even if the King Amendment doesn't make it into the Senate version of the Farm Bill, Monsanto is lobbying its Congressional allies for other measures that would accomplish the preemption or nullification of any state GMO labeling law.
Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have admitted privately that they've "lost the battle" to stop GE food labeling at the state level, now that states are aggressively moving forward on labeling laws. On May 14, Maine's House Ag Committee passed a GMO labeling law. On May 10, the Vermont House passed a labeling bill, 99-42, despite massive lobbying by Monsanto and threats to sue the state. And though Monsanto won a razor-thin victory (51 percent to 49 percent) in a costly, hard fought California GMO labeling ballot initiative last November, biotech and Big Food now realize that Washington State voters will likely pass I-522, an upcoming ballot initiative to label GE foods, on November 5.
"If Monsanto can't stop states from passing laws, then the next step is a national preemptive measure," Cummins said. "And all signs point to just such a power grab."
Earlier this year, Monsanto slipped its extremely unpopular "Monsanto Protection Act," an act that gives biotech immunity from federal prosecution for planting illegally approved GE crops, into the 2013 Federal Appropriations Bill. During the June 2012 Farm Bill debate, 73 U.S. Senators voted against the right of states to pass mandatory GE food labeling laws. Emboldened by these votes, and now the House Ag Committee's vote on the King Amendment, Monsanto has every reason to believe Congress would support a potential nullification of states' rights to label.
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.