Heitkamp, Bipartisan Majority of Ag Committee Vote to Advance Biotech Labeling Bill
March 4, 2016
U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp last week voted with a bipartisan majority of the Senate Committee on Agriculture to advance a bill on biotechnology labeling introduced by Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS). The bill can now be considered by the full Senate.
Heitkamp continues to have concerns that the bill, which aims to prevent a variety of differing state laws on GMO labeling rules, will not guarantee consumers access to the information they want about their food. She will continue to push to strengthen Roberts' bill as it moves forward by pressing for more robust disclosure of biotech ingredients in foods, without stigmatizing biotechnology.
"There's no doubt we need to strengthen Chairman Robert's bill – as it is by no means perfect – but standing by while a patchwork of labeling laws pop up across the country is not a formula for success. Passing this bill out of committee is an important starting point as we try to reach bipartisan consensus in Congress to defend consumers, who have every right to know what's in their food, while supporting producers so they can do their jobs without unnecessary hurdles," said Heitkamp. "As I've long said, it's critical that we educate folks about how technology has safely improved the way we grow food in North Dakota and around the country. This science has increased yields and can even improve the nutritional quality of crops – a fact that should be celebrated, not stigmatized."
Chairman Roberts' bill would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to set up nationwide standards for voluntary disclosure of biotech ingredients. Those nationwide standards would pre-empt biotech labeling laws at the state and local levels, including a Vermont labeling law set to go into effect on July 1.
Heitkamp has pushed for more public outreach and education to explain the safety and successes of biotechnology in agriculture – both by federal agencies, and the food and agricultural industries.
A European Union review of studies on the safety of GMOs, published in 2010, concluded that biotech foods are no more risky than foods derived from conventional plant breeding technologies. The EU's comprehensive review included 130 research projects over the course of more than 25 years, and involved more than 500 independent research groups. The review also noted that biotechnology in agriculture has the potential to alleviate global hunger, improve nutrition, and promote environmental sustainability.
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During an October 2015 Senate Committee on Agriculture hearing, Heitkamp questioned top officials from the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration about needed consumer access to agricultural biotechnology safety information.