Ever since the Supreme Court handed down its mixed 7-1 decision, ruling that the lower court overstepped its boundary by issuing an injunction on the planting of genetically modified alfalfa, some lawmakers were spurred to action. Reuters, for example, reported that more than 50 U.S. lawmakers called on the U.S. Agriculture Department to keep Monsanto’s biotech alfalfa out of farm fields. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, were joined by 49 other representatives and five other senators in asking Tom Vilsack, the Agricultural Secretary, to ensure that Monsanto’s genetically engineered alfalfa is not approved for commercial use.
Additionally, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced three bills in the House related to the labeling of food containing genetically engineered material, the cultivation and handling of genetically engineered crops, and the establishment of a set of farmer rights regarding genetically engineered animals, plants, and seeds. In his press release, Kucinich stated that:
To ensure we can maximize benefits and minimize hazards, Congress must provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all Genetically Engineered products. Structured as a common-sense precaution to ensure GE foods do no harm, these bills will ensure that consumers are protected, food safety measures are strengthened, farmers’ rights are better protected and biotech companies are responsible for their products.
The bills introduced by Kucinich are: (1) H.R. 5577, The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, as well as supporting legislation that will provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all Genetically Engineered (GE) plants, animals, bacteria, and other organisms; (2) the Genetically Engineered Safety Act, HR 5578, which prohibits the open-air cultivation of GE pharmaceutical and industrial crops and establishes a tracking system to regulate and ensure the safety of GE pharmaceutical and industrial crops; and (3) the Genetically Engineered Technology Farmer Protection Act, HR 5579 which would protect farmers and ranchers that may be harmed economically by genetically engineered seeds, plants, or animals, to ensure fairness for farmers and ranchers in their dealings with biotech companies that sell GE products.
This is the fifth attempt by Kucinich to push through GMO labeling and regulation bills, attempts that date back to 1999. He has been a long-time leading advocate in the House of Representatives for genetically modified food regulation. In fact, he introduced the same bills back in 2003 and again in 2008. On both occasions the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act got as far as the House Agriculture and Energy sub-committees.
H.R. 5577 was co-sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Barney Frank (D-MA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
HR 5578 and HR 5579 were co sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Barney Frank (D-MA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
With support of more democrats and on the heels of a controversial Supreme Court decision, we are hoping that the bills may have a better chance of surviving beyond the House Agricultural and Energy sub-committees.