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Schrader Urges Passage of Safe Food Labeling Act

Washington – Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-05) released the following statement regarding his vote for H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, of which he was an original cosponsor.

“I’m a cosponsor of H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, because it addresses the confusion surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Right now, there is no national definition for what a GMO is and consumers are lost in marketplaces with so many options. Moreover, there is a lot of misinformation in the public sphere regarding GMOs.

Study after study has shown GMOs to be safe and healthy. This determination is supported by leading science and health authorities like: National Academies of Science, World Health Organization, The European Commission, and the American Advancement of Science, to name a few. We don’t want to continue to lead consumers to believe that there is anything wrong with genetically modified crops. After all, we have been genetically modifying crops and food for generations outside of laboratories. Increasing crop yields, decreasing pesticide use, improving nutrition and developing new varieties of crops through biotechnology also holds great promise to help feed a growing global population and benefit poor countries around the world.

I know, however, that consumers want to identify GMO-free food and H.R. 1599 provides a uniform definition for those products. The legislation provides a GMO-certification program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to benefit the consumer that doesn’t interfere with current food labeling based on health and safety, as well as nutritional concerns. This bill would enable us to avoid a messy and confusing patchwork of state and local regulations and higher costs for consumers and manufacturers.

As an organic farmer for 20 years, I know that we fought for a similar certification program to help consumers interested in organically grown produce and meat in Oregon. And, as a veterinarian and the former Ranking Member of the Horticulture and Biotechnology Subcommittee on the House Committee on Agriculture, I have done my homework and want good science to inform and protect the consumer.”

Congressman Schrader also took to the House floor today to express his support and the need for this legislation. His remarks as prepared for delivery are below. A video of his speech is also available HERE.

“As a veterinarian and an organic farmer, and having spent six years on the House Agriculture Committee, including two as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Biotechnology, I’ve studied the issue of GMOs very closely and it’s something I take very seriously.  In fact, back in the 80’s I helped write our state organic standards in Oregon.

For thousands of years humans have grown or bred plants and animals and chosen the most desirable traits for breeding the next generations in an effort for them to be able to resist pests and disease and increase yields.

Through modern techniques using biotechnology it has become possible to modify or isolate genes in a laboratory with great precision and speed to improve a plant's resistance to disease, insects or drought, a plant's tolerance to a herbicide, improving a food's quality or nutritional value, or increasing its yield.

Genetic modification builds on breeding techniques that farmers have been using for thousands of years through hybridization and selective plant breeding.

Through biotechnology we’ve been able to increase productivity and efficiency while reducing the number of inputs like water and pesticides, resulting in higher crop yields. Higher crop yields per acre allow for better land management and the conservation of marginal lands. 

GMOs in combination with good agricultural practices also improve soil quality and reduce pollution by allowing farmers to till (or mechanically work the soil) less often or not at all therefore reducing soil erosion and reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture.

The U.S. is not alone in the cultivation of genetically engineered food.  Globally GE crops are grown in 28 countries -- including the U.S., Brazil, Argentina, Canada, India, and China to name a few -- and account for 420 million acres.

It is estimated the world population will increase to nine billion people by 2050 increasing food demand by 70 percent.

With increased pressures from climate change, we will become even more reliant on the scientific community to develop the necessary technologies that will increase yields and productivity of our crops to provide a safe and sustainable food supply. Biotechnology will become an even more important tool in the fight against global poverty and food insecurity.

GM crops that flourish in challenging environments without the aid of expensive pesticides or equipment can play an important role in alleviating hunger and food stress in the developing world. This is precisely why I am very concerned about the demonization of biotechnology and the rejection by many of the supporting science behind it.

We must be careful not to dis-incentivize further scientific advancement in this critical area.

We’ve heard members cite many polls during this debate, so I’d like to cite one as well.  The PEW Research Center conducted a poll recently and found that 90 percent of the scientific community found that genetically engineered food is safe and poses no threat to human health. 

A wide range of well-respected international science organizations concur including: The National Academy of Sciences, The World Health Organization, The American Medical Association, The American Association for the Advancement of Science, The European Commission, Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, and the list goes on and on.

H.R. 1599 provides a uniform standard for non-GMO products through a USDA administered program and ensures national uniformity for non-GE claims providing consistency in the marketplace while ensuring consumer confidence in the integrity of the label.  A patchwork of confusing state specific laws related to GMO labeling risks further confusion in the marketplace and rising food costs.

I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 1599 and I yield back.”