Backed by food and agriculture interests, U.S. House passes voluntary GMO-labeling bill

Under the House bill, companies can choose to put U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified labels on their products identifying them as GMO or non-GMO.

WASHINGTON — After years of staying out of a contentious debate, Congress came closer to passing policy regarding the labeling of genetically-modified foods for the first time ever. On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which would establish a national, voluntary, federally-administrated standard system for the labeling of GMO and genetically engineered foods.

Critically, the bill would prevent states and localities from passing their own mandatory GMO labeling laws — a central point of contention that lawmakers, interest groups, and activists have focused on. It would invalidate the laws of states like Vermont, for example, which passed a mandatory labeling statute last year.

The Minnesota legislature has considered labeling bills before, but none have become law. Bills in the House and Senate were introduced during the last legislative session but didn’t go anywhere.

Supporters of the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, claim it targets these local laws in order to eliminate inconsistency in labeling standards from state to state, or even city to city. 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, backed the bill after being on the fence. He called the difference in local laws an “unworkable scenario” that creates confusion for farmers, companies, and consumers. The bill, he said on the House floor Thursday, “doesn’t get to where some people want, but it’s a workable solution that people should support.”

Food industry lobbies heavily

Food industry interests were active in shaping the regulations. According to lobbying disclosures, 51 interest groups worked on it, including Minnesota companies like Land O’ Lakes, General Mills, Hormel, and Cargill. Mark Klein, a spokesman for Cargill, said, “We view this through the lens of food security and the implications for food costs and supply disruptions that a patchwork of state requirements would create. We’ll continue to talk with lawmakers, customers and others as this proposal moves ahead.”

The labeling bill passed with support from members of both parties, though Democrats constituted the overwhelming majority of the no votes. Democrats Tim Walz and Betty McCollum, along with the three Republicans in the delegation, joined Peterson in voting yes. Reps. Keith Ellison and Rick Nolan voted no.

The issue of GMO labeling — and their use more broadly — is deeply divisive nationally. On the House floor, members engaged in heated debate over the safety of genetically modified foods and the role states and cities should play in labeling. Many Democrats took to the floor to question the safety of GMO foods — something Walz wasn’t buying. “I respect their worries but the science isn’t there with them,” he said. “You can’t have it both ways…If you’re frustrated that people don’t look at the science on climate change or vaccination, you don’t get to reject it.”

Activists disappointed

Consumer and environmental activists are deeply passionate about labeling, and an organized movement has emerged in recent years. In Minnesota, Heather Flesland coordinated opposition to the bill for a group called Right to Know Minnesota, which pushes for labeling laws. She says her group has gotten hundreds of Minnesotans to call and write to all eight representatives, urging them to vote no.

Flesland and other activists have characterized the bill as a creation of agricultural interests — its elimination of local mandatory labeling standards is strongly backed by the food industry. In the activist community, the bill already has a catchy alternate name: the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act, or the DARK Act. “This was basically written in partnership with some of these larger companies, like Monsanto,” Flesland says. “You look at someone like Collin Peterson, who has gotten the maximum donations from Monsanto, you can see that money trail.”

Beyond prohibiting local and state labeling laws, opponents of the bill take issue with what they see as a weak labeling system under the law. It would allows companies to choose put U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified labels on their products identifying them as GMO or non-GMO. Critics like Flesland doubt that any companies would voluntarily label their products as GMO.

Starting the conversation

The bill’s supporters feel that it’s been mischaracterized by a zealous opposition. They point to things like the bill’s provision for mandatory federal research of newly engineered organisms in making the case that it’s a step forward for consumer safety. They’ve also argued that strict GMO labeling laws — like the one passed in Vermont last year — would create confusing loopholes and raise prices on consumer goods. Those arguments — amplified by a powerful flow of cash from the food and ag industry — helped defeat similar GMO labeling laws on the ballot in California, Oregon, and others in recent years.

McCollum, speaking shortly after the vote Thursday afternoon, emphasized that the bill isn’t perfect. “This is only the first step and I want to move this progress along, she said.” McCollum was singled out by Minnesota Right to Know’s Flesland, who said she was disappointed the St. Paul congresswoman supported the bill. “If I vote to kill [the bill], I vote to stop discussion,” McCollum said.

“I have a lot of questions, a lot of concerns with this bill,” she said. “But I want to get to a point where any consumer can pick up a label and have confidence when they read that label that they know what’s in it.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration — where activists say they’ll fight it just as hard.

Comments (69)

  1. Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/24/2015 - 11:22 am.

    GMO

    There isn’t any reason to label GMO’s since they are the same as non-GMO’s and have also been proven safe by every single reputable study.

    • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/24/2015 - 02:54 pm.

      You may not want to know…

      where your food is made, how it’s made, what it’s made from…but plenty of people do.

      Just imagine if we didn’t label food that contains peanuts or was processed with peanuts.

      • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/27/2015 - 08:33 am.

        I want to know

        As long as all have to label their foods including big organic industry. They would like to label only GMO foods and nothing else which is not necessary. That is simply fear mongering.

        • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/27/2015 - 09:35 am.

          Use of the Organic label has rules, requirements, and regulations. So, it already IS labeled.

          • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/28/2015 - 11:13 am.

            labels

            GMO’s have rules as well and have been proven safe. What organic does not label is what pesticides and fertilizers they use. They want to use fear mongering to force GMO’s to label and hide what they use from the public.

            • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/28/2015 - 11:28 am.

              Why?

              Why do you want Organics to label pesticide and fertilizer use, but not Conventional crops? Now THAT would be an eye-opener, seeing just how many chemicals are used in the production of conventional crops.

              • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/29/2015 - 09:01 am.

                fairness

                It’s in the interest of fairness for all and also for the rights of citizens to know what is in their food. Big organic is trying to create an unfair advantage in the market by promoting the unnecessary labeling of GMO’s and it needs to be stopped.

                • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/29/2015 - 10:38 am.

                  But you asking for special consideration

                  Foods made from conventional crops do not and would not have to label what pesticides and herbicides were used in the growing of the crop.

                  In fact, when you buy Organic, you know exactly which chemical may have been used in the production of the food, because there is a certification process and rules which regulate which ones CAN be used.

                  Not so with conventional crops.

                  In other words, you have this whole thing backwards.

  2. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 07/24/2015 - 12:34 pm.

    My Hypocrisy

    Meter just went into alarm.

    I thought those small gubmint GOP reps in Congress a) want to limit the scope and size of the federal government, b) are in favor of local control and C) don’t the feds meddling in the economy.

    The next thing you know the distinguished Speaker Boehner and his caucus will be getting their government hands on my Medicare.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/24/2015 - 01:26 pm.

      GOP reps

      When it makes sense and the local governments are willing to rely on science and not knee jerk reactions based on misinformation spread by activist groups and general uneducated citizens.

      • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 07/24/2015 - 03:26 pm.

        You can believe in Monsanto, Cargill, etc

        All you want. I want to know what exactly is in my food.

        • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/27/2015 - 08:40 am.

          science

          I believe science. I hope you also want to know what is in your organic food too because they want to hide that from you.

          • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 07/27/2015 - 04:36 pm.

            Your sources for the

            Last sentence? Love of science is hardly a conservative topic BTW

            • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/28/2015 - 11:14 am.

              source

              I didn’t cite any data. Organic food does not list what pesticides and fertilizers they use. If you need a source for that you can look at any label in the grocery store.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/28/2015 - 08:34 am.

          Small point

          “DNA” or “genes” aren’t “in” your food, they’re not an additive, they ARE your food. Technically it’s not a matter of knowing what’s “in” your food, it’s simply a matter of knowing what in fact you are eating.

          Point of fact: Humans have been modifying plants and animals on a genetic level for thousands of years. Almost every food you buy from organic tomatoes to pork is genetically modified. With few exceptions like maybe wild rice NONE of the food your eating hails from any kind of “natural” state.

          The potential problems with modern DNA modifications have nothing to do with labeling, and consumer activism doesn’t solve anything.

          • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/29/2015 - 09:03 am.

            exactly

            This shows labeling GMO’s is unnecessary. If you are going to label GMO’s you can label organic and all other foods exactly the same. Let’s not give an unfair advantage to one over another in the market without it being necessary.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 07/25/2015 - 10:17 pm.

        Wait A Minuite…

        I thought it was those pointy headed liberals, you know, those Volvo driving wine sipping John Kerry surf boarding types, who know whats best for us. Now you telling me it’s OK for conservatives to be condescending know-it-alls and preempt local control like some kind of neo-colonialists? I thought we needed to trust the little people, not the academics.

        My, my, we really have entered Upside Down World, haven’t we?

        If this catches on, maybe we can we start using science for climate change too.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/25/2015 - 09:30 am.

      Yes, whatever happened to states’ rights?

      In the right-wing world, I guess that states’ rights apply only to the freedom to discriminate against people or the freedom for any yahoo to carry weapons in public places.

  3. Submitted by Curt Carlson on 07/24/2015 - 03:56 pm.

    Tim Walz has it right

    He said, “If you’re frustrated that people don’t look at the science on climate change or vaccination, you don’t get to reject it.” There’s as great a scientific consensus that GMOs are safe as there is that climate change is caused by human activity. The move for labeling is promoted by the organic marketing machine, not out of any empirical concern for food safety. When will the organic folks start to reveal how much and what kind of pesticides they use?

    • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/24/2015 - 04:20 pm.

      Use of the Organic label has rules.

      And regulations. Something GMOs do not have.

      Shocking, isn’t it? Telling a consumer that something is grown the way nature would grow it requires rules and regulations, but using a young technology of which we do not know the full effects, no matter what the biotech companies tell you, doesn’t require a single bit of labeling at all. How convenient for Monsanto, Cargill and the like.

      What harm could possibly come from dousing our industrial crops in RoundUp? Monsanto says you could drink RoundUp and be fine, but they won’t do it themselves. Gee…I wonder why.

      • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/27/2015 - 08:36 am.

        mosconception

        Not sure where you get that misconception from. There are rules and regulations for GMO’s. GMO’s have to wait many months before being approved for use. Why don’t you post some more lies while you are at it? I guess you did. No person that works at Monsanto has ever said to drink roundup. Why don’t you drink orgainic fertilizer if organic is so safe?

        • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/27/2015 - 09:43 am.

          And yet

          Nobody has any idea what years upon years of consumption of these materials (can’t call them plants) will do to the human body.

          But I suppose the people who benefit financially from the promulgation of GMOs can be trusted.

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/27/2015 - 11:05 am.

            “Organic”

            Is no less an “industry” even if smaller in scale. Check of the backgrounds of the big names in the “natural foods” racket. No one likes to admit they’ve been had by those with a vested interest in parting you from your hard earned dollar, but the “organic” industry has been robbing you blind for decades.

            • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/27/2015 - 01:38 pm.

              Strawman argument

              I did not argue whether or not Organics is an industry. I also did not argue about whether the price is too high or too low.

              But the label “Organic” has a meaning. It cannot be used without certification.

              • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/28/2015 - 11:16 am.

                certification

                Please post what that certification is please.

                • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/28/2015 - 11:38 am.

                  Much too detailed to post here.

                  It is the result of Federal legislation. Here’s a link:

                  http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/NOPOrganicStandards

                  You have written many posts from the perspective that you understand Agriculture, but you seem unaware that there are National Organic standards and that use of the USDA Organic seal requires certification. Perhaps I’ll stop taking your comments seriously.

                  • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/29/2015 - 09:06 am.

                    regulation

                    The standards are pretty general and allow organic to use pesticides and fertilizers exactly the same as conventional. Just because some are not allowed to be used does not mean none are used. Let’s not assume that organic is safer than conventional because it simply is not true. It is the organic industry we need to stop taking seriously because the standards they adhere to are nothing different than any other crop.

            • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 07/27/2015 - 04:41 pm.

              Natural foods

              Is not organic. Eat your corporate food

          • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/27/2015 - 11:58 am.

            years of consumption

            Does anyone have any idea what years of consumption of organic foods with their pesticides and fertilizers will do to the human body? Big organic wants to hide info from the public and swing the market in their favor. I don’t trust big organic at all since they clearly are only out to make money. Not one reputable study has show that GMO’s cause any ill effects of any kind.

            • Submitted by jason myron on 07/27/2015 - 01:06 pm.

              Riiight.

              Big organic only want to make money, but Big Ag has the consumers best interest in its heart. Thanks for clearing that up.

              • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/28/2015 - 11:18 am.

                putting words

                Now you are just putting words I didn’t say into my mouth. At no point did I say Big Ag has the consumers best interest in it’s heart. My point was that way too much time is spent vilifying big agriculture and that they are no different than organic although organic wants to create an unfair advantage by forcing GMO’s to be labeled out of fear.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/27/2015 - 05:07 pm.

        It’s my understanding that a food product with an organic label is inherently non-GMO. Other than safety testing the ingredients (which is done before GMO crops can be approved for use as an ingredient), why is it necessary to have regulations on both sides of the coin? If you buy organic, you should know that you are buying non-GMO. It’s a pretty safe practice to assume that if it’s not labeled “organic” it contains GMO. If GMO labeling was a matter of “right to know” then the problem has already been solved.

  4. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/25/2015 - 09:34 am.

    I’m agnostic about GMOs, but it does strike me as suspicious

    that our food is already labeled for calories, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and ingredients in order of percentage, as well as possible allergens and preservatives, but somehow the GMO content needs to be hidden.

    If GMOs (which I know are not the same thing as hybrids of closely related species) are truly harmless, let their presence be stated on the label.

  5. Submitted by DENNIS SCHMINKE on 07/25/2015 - 06:12 pm.

    GMO Ingredients

    Full disclosure: I am retired now, but worked 38 years for a MN-based S&P 500 food company. I did a lot of work in the areas of labeling, quality assurance, and regulatory compliance.

    GMO labeling–the way the ‘foodies’ are demanding may work for the local organic farm or locker plant, but it is simply not feasible in our nation-wide supply chain UNLESS we can get some agreement on a NATIONAL standard. (doubtful)

    Think about this…if you are a national-level company, how do you comply with potentially 50 different sets of labeling regs? And as a practical matter–how do you keep track of it all separately through multiple steps of a manufacturing process in your plants? (50 different SKU numbers for each item you make–for each step in the process–and the computers, scanners, etc that requires.) Then you must keep track if it separately in the warehouse (space there is scarce and expensive) and as each truck is loaded. THEN you have to HOPE that WalMart, SuperValu, or Nash Finch don’t accidentally send something labeled for MN to Wisconsin. Remember that a substantial portion of the people working in these plants and warehouses do not even have a good command of the English language!)

    Dear consumer: The reason we have GMO’s is that they lower production costs. That means cheaper foods to you. A few of you want to know–and are willing to pay more. Most do not.

    So…my suggestion would be to ASSUME that what you are buying MAY have some GMO ingredient. If not that…in the case of meat products, for example, did the chicken or pig in question ever EAT GMO corn or soymeal (probably yes).

    Reasonable solution: Let’s let the consumer speak. Let’s set up a ‘GMO-free’ labeling designation. If consumers want that–food companies will provide it, and consumers will buy it. If they don’t really care, they will continue to buy ‘regular’ products that may or may not have one or more GMO ingredients. Or just buy ‘organic’ which I am to understand takes care of this problem.

    There is NO credible evidence that GMO ingredients are in any way unsafe or unhealthy. We ought not let the fetishists among us dictate expensive and unnecessary labeling requirements for everyone else. Let them pay PERSONALLY for their fetish.

  6. Submitted by Steven Bailey on 07/25/2015 - 08:18 pm.

    Say no to GMO (for now)

    GMO crops in the United States and around the world are modified not for better nutrition or increased health benefits but to tolerate Glyphosate (Roundup). They are modified with unknown consequences for no reason but corporate profit. Some types of GMO’s foods may be very important in the future but genetically modifying crops to tolerate spraying of a probable human carcinogen is not that future.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/27/2015 - 08:39 am.

      false

      Golden rice is modified to have a higher amount of beta caratine to solve blindness due to malnutrition in developing countries. Big organic is lying to you and you are eating it up as if it were fact. Coffee is a probably carcinogen too so enjoy that every morning.

      • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/27/2015 - 10:04 am.

        Diversity

        And what happens, when, after decades of deceptive tactics and strong-arming of the government by these biotech companies, when golden rice has become the majority of rice grown, when the other strains and varieties of rice that have been grown for millennia have been relegated to the dustbin…what happens when the inevitable blight and disease begins wiping out this crop? How many people will the biotech companies have killed through starvation? How much will THAT cost the worldwide community?

        You don’t mess with the single most important food crop in the world. Variety and the careful preservation and cultivation of those varieties are the way to keep it safe from those only looking for profit.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/27/2015 - 10:35 am.

          Sorry

          Amazingly I am in agreement with Mr. Smithers on this one, look up Norman Borlaug, the guy who created golden rice, essentially. He isn’t big Ag, he’s pro-helping the downtrodden. You’ve engaged in the naturalistic fallacy, on more than one occasion, to try to justify “organic” as somehow superior to “conventional” foods. Show us the empirical study that validates this view. There are genuine concerns with genetically altering plants and animal life to our own ends, crossbreeding with wild type weeds and wild animal life among them, continually shouting from the rooftops about the least of the concerns (human safety), distracts from any constructive dialogue about the others. I get that it’s easy, because nothing drives people to action better than irrational, vague, fear of anything unknown or not understood but it’s intellectually dishonest. Not to mention the fact that like the crazy antivax tripe that infects the scientifically illiterate, it can cause real harm to real people.

          • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/27/2015 - 11:36 am.

            Vaccination is the result of understanding a natural process

            Inserting genes from one species into the genome of an unrelated (sometimes not even in the same Kingdom) species is not even within the same realm of ideas as Vaccination.

            What Borlaug did is within the realm of nature. He understood how nature works for or against certain traits in the plant and used natural processes to give the plants the best traits for food production.

            Keywords: nature, natural

            It is not fear mongering to suggest that we don’t know everything we think we do.

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/27/2015 - 01:58 pm.

              But it is

              To suggest that simply because we don’t have total comprehension that the idea itself must be evil. Believe me I am no fan of progress for progress same, but to rest on the old canard of “the way nature intended” is intellectually lazy. To play it out we would have NO agriculture and would be hunting and gathering wild type plants and animals only. Your definition of “natural” is nothing more than a subjective opinion based on what you find to be understandable and logical. If scientific advance were forced to rely on that definition of what is possible we’d be far worse off. Unless one of course would like a return to the “millennia” past that you reference earlier. I mean who wouldn’t like a life complicated by constant threat of famine, disease, neighbors accusing one of sorcery and witchcraft, and death at the ripe old age of 40.

              • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/27/2015 - 02:55 pm.

                It’s going to be difficult…

                to have a proper discussion if you’re going to continue to construct strawmen to attack rather than my arguments.

                I did not say the idea is evil. Why do you believe that people shouldn’t know what they are eating?

                Rather than saying that we should do things “the way nature intended”, I’m saying that we should be careful to believe that we have outdone nature herself when we can’t possibly know if that’s true. Remember, the Titanic was “unsinkable”.

                We have destroyed 99% of the North American Tallgrass Prairie ecosystem in order to “feed the world”. What the passage of eons created – incredible soil – we have decimated. We may be able to find ways to survive it, but are we really better off by having sterilized the soil of our home?

                I never referenced a return to the “‘millennia’ of the past”.

                You seem to be under the impression that just because something is scientifically possible that it must be a net benefit to us and our planet.

                • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/27/2015 - 05:47 pm.

                  Not at all

                  The decimation of the prairie ecosystem IS a legitimate concern, but not one solely associated with GMO agriculture. Sorry, if your railing against Monsanto and Roundup isn’t meant to imply nefarious dealings and evil behavior, I guess I miss your meaning. Beyond your walk back, I have a legitimate inquiry. How do you plan to feed the burgeoning world population? I don’t want some lame treatise on population control as we both know that it’s not happening. How are you gonna feed the planet with your time worn “Mother Nature” approved approach? All progress isn’t good, you are correct, but when the choice is between starvation, or not, for many millions if not billions what choice is there? As I said, I have concerns regarding GMO use, but none relate to human safety. I am willing to accept the trade offs, potential for cross species contamination, increased reliance on monoculture, farmers getting the shaft on patented seed deals, etc… to prevent massive amounts of human suffering. If a small minority of consumers, those who already enjoy massive advantages with regards to food security over large swaths of the human population have to endure not having perfect knowledge of their food choices to allow it to happen, so be it.

                  • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/28/2015 - 08:39 am.

                    The final arbiter will be Mother Nature

                    “How do you plan to feed the burgeoning world population? I don’t want some lame treatise on population control as we both know that it’s not happening. How are you gonna feed the planet with your time worn “Mother Nature” approved approach?”

                    If this planet cannot support the burgeoning human population, what are we to do about it? That is the question, isn’t it? What good will it do our species if we destroy our home and its ability to support us? The more we push it to its limits, the less likely it will be there for us when we need it.

                    Remember, Nature doesn’t have a conscience. We won’t have to control our population. It will be done for us.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/28/2015 - 12:10 pm.

                      Social Darwinism then? I thought I was misanthropic, but I am continually proven wrong. Tell me, do we volunteer our wealthy industrious populations for the culling, or just let the brown folks do the starving like usual? It’s a pity some folks fancy themselves liberals, when they’re core beliefs are anything but.

                    • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/28/2015 - 05:08 pm.

                      Pressure must be realized

                      The pressure increasing populations put on the environment must be realized and accounted for. A big part of that is to stop destroying the long term viability of our environment for short term production. Especially when the production is primarily taken up by making things cheap. Even if sustainable practices reduce production in the short and medium term making food more expensive is the only way to reduce waste and/or consumption. If food is more expensive we will take more care with it, waste less and put pressure on people to reduce the number of children they have. The fact that we are subsidizing people to have more kids is a non-food related issue that needs to stop as well.

  7. Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/27/2015 - 12:10 pm.

    Environmental health

    I am more concerned with the impact of GMOs on the environment than I am on health of the individuals that consume them. The science hasn’t shown any ill effects (given current data) from consumption but the negative issues with conventional farming, all of which now relies on GMOs, are well known. The method by which conventional farming creates such high yields is destroying our soil, water and larger ecosystem.

    If somebody has concerns about GMOs go after them for the environmental issue, not for the yet unfounded fear of negative health impacts. Eliminating any intellectual property protection would be a good way to do it. Beyond my natural position to IP I would argue there is no reason anybody should be able to receive protection on a living organism.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/27/2015 - 05:51 pm.

      Interesting approach

      I am not certain how eliminating intellectual property protection would solve the alleged problem of GMOs. I admit that I dabble in intellectual property (that is, I’m a patent agent, so it’s my job), and I can’t understand how elimination of patent protection would get rid of any potentially negative benefits of a GMO. Even assuming a net negative environmental impact of GMO plants, dropping patent protection would only reduce the profitability of those who invent them. But, because GMO plants have a very positive benefit on ease and reliability of crop production, it’s very likely that they would still be created and used in commodity crops where it’s hard to squeeze much profit if you get lower yields or increased crop variability. You’d probably find much more variety than the current GMOs because pretty much every small lab could create a GMO line–it’s really not that hard as a process. The biggest hurdle would be paying for the safety testing. But, I would bet that someone would pay for that as long as they have access to profit as a result of the advantages a genetically modified crop could provide.

      As for the negative environmental impact of GMOs, that’s debatable. While most crops can be farmed using a no-till or low-till method (which is very environmentally positive), the move to herbicide resistant crops helped some (if not a lot) of farmers move to this more conservative farming approach. In addition, yields on the same acreage are more consistent with GMO crops. This doesn’t mean that GMO crops outpace the more standard varieties every year, but on average, the yield is higher with GMO crops. Using fewer resources, including land and water, will continue to be an important benefit of any farming practice in the future. As for pesticide use, some estimates indicate that pesticide usage in the US has increased by about 7% between 1996 and 2011 (a particularly grim estimate, though only a correlation, not causation; http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24). However, crop yield gains have increased by 20%+ in the same period of time (feel free to use this tool to check it out yourself; http://quickstats.nass.usda.gov/). While not necessarily a cause and effect relationship, since GMO crops went from rare to almost universal in that same period of time, it seems they might just be related. While I agree that GMO use could potentially result in environmental harm, it’s mostly the practices of individuals that use them and not the crops themselves that introduces the risk. Considering the difference in land use I’ve seen from when I was a kid to now, I can certainly appreciate that farmers were not more environmentally conscious back then versus now. I used to see lots of beautiful black soil topping the snow in the ditches in winter time and large gashes in the land where runoff dug out gullies of precious soil. I rarely see such poor soil conservation now. Would farmers be more likely in this enlightened age to be more environmentally conscious if they were planting non-GMO crops? Not necessarily. Herbicides make an excellent crop finisher if you don’t want to wait those pesky few weeks for your crop to reach senescence and dry naturally before harvest. I highly doubt we’d see the end of chemicals applied to crops if we switched back to non-GMO crops.

      • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/28/2015 - 05:45 pm.

        Conventional farming in general in not a sustainable model, GMOs or not. The idea of dead soil to which is added tailored seed and nutrients while all other life in the field is destroyed has negative effects that reach further than the few acres farmed. Monocultures are inherently unstable and while there are a multitude of policies, subsidies and other reasons they are encouraged in modern agriculture GMOs are a tool that continues to make these damaging practices financial viable. For now anyway.

        Also, what happens when neighboring fields that can’t keep the “protected” DNA off their land? What happens to growers if they get trapped in to one companies proprietary system? Both of these potentially steer us towards less diversity and more risk in our food supply. Biological diversity is the only reason there is life on this planet. Reducing that diversity puts everyone at risk.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/28/2015 - 11:25 am.

      no

      GMO’s can be raised in ways that are not conventional agriculture as well so that would not be a reason to be concerned by them.

      • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/28/2015 - 04:02 pm.

        They can be..

        That is true but not the primary reason they are developed. They are typically developed for large scale conventional ag since that is the largest market. The “system” GMOs are most often developed around is generally destructive to everything else in the environment. If you walk a conventional field there are almost no bugs or birds for a reason. The land is basically dead and nothing more than a media growing engineered crops.

        I don’t have an issue with the basic idea of GMOs but the effect of the system they are integral to supporting is destructive.

        • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/29/2015 - 02:09 pm.

          totally false accusation

          Your accusation that conventional farming creates dead soil and there are no birds or bugs in those fields is a complete falsehood. I have walked in fields, picked rocks, rode on a bean rider and can tell you with 100% accuracy there is plenty of life there. There are many living things in the soil if you look closely and also under a microscope as well as many bugs and many birds in those fields. The misconception that GMO’s are part of a destructive system is totally false as well. Conventional ag is much more sustainable than organic and that is a proven fact. Not only that but we would be unable to feed the worlds population with organic farming. In fact we cannot feed the population with conventional either but we are much closer than organic will ever be and closing the gap with new technology every day. Agriculture is continually being refined and to think that we should revert to old ways of agriculture is backwards thinking. Conventional ag is a step or possibly several steps ahead of other methods of agriculture. It’s pretty clear that is the case when you see the majority of farmers using conventional systems.

          • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/30/2015 - 03:16 pm.

            Completely untrue

            The amount of life in conventional fields is a tiny fraction of that of most organic farming. The idea that some exists is not a counter to the amount of life conventional farming has destroyed. It is like saying there are still some rhinos in Africa so there really isn’t a problem. Conventional farming is in no way sustainable as it would not exist without taping in to nonrenewable resources (primarily petrochemicals) or depleting our water supply and destroying our waterways and the life in them. The idea that it is sustainable as a proven fact is completely ridiculous. Most of the state of California wouldn’t be able to produce anything unless it was diverting massive amounts of water using damns and other methods which are highly destructive to biodiversity.

            The idea that we need it to feed the worlds population is like claiming conventional ag can solve a problem largely a product of its own making. Artificially cheap food is a major factor to our ever expanding population. An issue our ecosystem will very likely not survive. Pumping carbon in to the atmosphere and destroying biodiversity to feed an ever expanding population can only result in a dead planet.

            I would never suggest simply regressing to “old ways” and the idea that sustainable agriculture necessitates using only old methods is a straw man. Modern science is a big part of understanding the natural systems and how we need to adapt our practices. What you are suggesting is analogous to saying either global warming doesn’t exist and if it does we will simply use technology to work our way out of it. While that might be possible it is highly unlikely and a hugely risky proposal to try.

            • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 08/04/2015 - 11:10 am.

              life in fields

              You have no proof there is zero life in conventional agriculture fields and also zero proof organic has more. Backpedaling gets us nowhere. Conventional agriculture is a step (if not many) ahead of organic since it uses more technology and is more efficient. There is no way to quantify either method is sustainable and it really has no bearing. You simply cannot raise enough food to feed the world with antiquated organic methods.

              • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 08/05/2015 - 08:41 am.

                If you think

                that modern Organic agriculture is antiquated, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

                I suggest you educate yourself on just how much food Organics can produce, particular in drought situations, when conventional crops are suffering. You might learn something.

                It is impossible for Conventional agriculture to feed the world in perpetuity. It is energy intensive and soil destroying.

                • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 08/12/2015 - 11:52 am.

                  organic

                  You’ve stated there is zero life in soils with conventional ag and then you stated that there is life but that there is more in organic ag. I don’t think it is me that needs to be educated on what organic crops can produce.

                  There is clear proof that conventional and GMO crops produce higher yields and are more drought resistant than organic crops. Otherwise you would see almost every farmer going organic and you don’t see that at all.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/28/2015 - 08:47 am.

    Yes…

    I’m sure Ag will “voluntarily” do the right thing with GMO’s just like they kept the water fishable and and drinkable and swimable with buffers. They’re “stewards” you know.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/28/2015 - 10:06 am.

      What IS the right thing?

      There’s lots of opinion on what’s right and what’s wrong with GMOs. But on a purely scientific basis, GMOs are not inherently dangerous to human health or the environment. The rules for required labeling are directed to ingredients that have a distinct nutritional value and/or pose a health risk to individuals. Since GMO crops don’t inherently have a nutritional difference and don’t inherently pose a health risk, requiring labeling of GMO ingredients changes what ingredient labels do. At this time, there is a voluntary label available organic, and there is the availability of GMO-free certification by at least one group who provides the assurance people want that a product is GMO-free. For those that really want GMO-free, looking for these certifications can ensure GMO-free products. In return, companies that get their products either organic or GMO-free certified get the benefit of consumers who prefer such products. The number of these certified products is growing as the number of consumers who want them grows. If a product is not certified, it’s pretty safe to assume that the product cannot be guaranteed to be GMO-free, and thus, by lack of the label (which provides marketing value to the company selling the product), the products are effectively labeled as containing GMO ingredients. So…really…why should GMO labeling be required? And if it is required, why should it be a patchwork of state laws that regulate how they’re labeled?

      • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/29/2015 - 11:06 am.

        Untrue

        It is untrue that GMOs are not inherently dangerous to the environment. Since they are primarily used to support conventional agriculture they are already part of a destructive system. The effects increasing yields per acre aren’t without some impact nor are the coordinating herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. What effects might various GMOs have on insects or other plants? There is no way to effectively study the impact GMOs may have on the environment but there will be one. And given the track record of the worlds worst polluters, conventional agriculture, it won’t be positive. Heck, even when the negative effects of various agricultural practices are known it is almost impossible to stop them.

        • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/29/2015 - 02:13 pm.

          track record

          The USDA has completed a study which has shown that residues are within FDA limits on the overwhelming majority of foods. To state that conventional agriculture is responsible for being the worlds worst polluters is totally false. The facts have shown that farmers are efficient with herbicides and pesticides.

          • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/29/2015 - 05:45 pm.

            Residue is only a small part

            FDA limits are arbitrary and heavily influence by conventional ag businesses. The residue from specific chemicals might not directly cause illness in humans (as much as they used to) but that alone is only a minor part of the impact of the industry. Residue which doesn’t cause direct damage to humans can have large impacts on insects and plants which have ripple effects in the environment for which the USDA has little or no understanding or concern. Creating millions of acres of dead soil, billions of tons of erosion and nutrient runoff that has cause immense damage to not only local groundwater, rivers and lakes but to oceans across the globe. The effect of these actions have a massive reduction in both the ability of the ecosystem to manage carbon and the overall level of biodiversity.

            The damage done conventional agriculture is broader, deeper and longer lasting than that of all other industries. The amount of land and water damaged by it is enemies across the globe. It is less obvious because the damage it is diffused and distant from population centers while the benefits are concentrated and obvious. It is a good example of two common sins of our current regulator system. Privatizing the profits while socializing the risk and mortgaging the future for current luxuries.

            • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 08/04/2015 - 11:18 am.

              FDA limits

              There is zero evidence the limits have been influenced by anyone other than scientists that have determined what levels are safe or harmful. Along with this, there is also zero evidence the residues are causing any kind of ripple effects, “dead” soil, erosion, or nutrient runoff. Erosion and nutrient runoff is an entirely separate issue that has nothing to do with any pesticides used. Not every agency you don’t agree with is corrupt.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/29/2015 - 09:16 am.

      swimmable, fishable

      How many of those waters were fishable, drinkable or swimmable 50 years ago? Do you know what the number one source of TMDL’s in our state is? If you want to talk about stewards and who is responsible for impaired waters lets get the facts right.

  9. Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/29/2015 - 02:34 pm.

    organic sham

    Here is the truth. Organic food is not required to be GMO free. Nor are they subject to stringent certification or testing.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2015/07/29/why-organic-agriculture-is-a-colossal-hoax/

    GMO is simply an extension of the techniques for genetic modification. Organic foods are genetically modified as well and should have to be labeled the same as some would like GMO’s to be. 1599 prevents an unfair advantage for the organic industry. Those opposed to GMO’s have no scientific evidence to show any detrimental effects from them. Meanwhile the organic industry that those opposed to GMO’s back is nothing but a marketing ploy.

    • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/29/2015 - 03:18 pm.

      Bias

      Monsanto was spending $1 Million a day in California to defeat Prop 37, which would have required GMO labeling. Guess who their biggest proponent was? The author of the article you linked to.

      Try again.

      • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/30/2015 - 11:28 am.

        sham

        That doesn’t make the article any less true. Organic is not sustainable and is simply a marketing ploy.

        • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 07/30/2015 - 03:48 pm.

          Shill

          It makes him a mouthpiece of the largest benefactor of the use of GMOs; namely, Monsanto.

          Nothing he says is reliably true.

          • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 07/31/2015 - 03:26 pm.

            mouthpiece

            Just because he supports peer reviewed and published scientific studies does not mean he is not correct.

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