Minnesotans Want and Deserve the Right to Know About GMOs
If I’ve learned anything during my 35 years spent cooking in kitchens and traveling to over 160 countries in search of what food teaches us about culture, culinary creations and choices, it’s that the decisions people make when it comes to the foods they eat is a very personal one. Whether it’s a sandwich, a bowl of cereal, or lamb’s head soup, the choice of what we eat is driven by a number of factors, including knowing how it’s made, and what’s in it.
A food fight is brewing in Congress over just how much information Americans are allowed to have about much of the foods sold in grocery stores across the country. On one side of the debate sits roughly 90 percent of the American people, who strongly believe they should have the right to know if foods are made with genetically engineered ingredients, commonly called GMOs. On the flip side resides a handful of influential food corporations and biotechnology companies like Monsanto, Hormel and Cargill who are lobbying Congress to keep that information a secret and consumers in the dark. In 2015 alone, Big Food spent more than $100 million to prevent GMO labeling efforts.
Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or DARK Act. The bill would permanently block any state, including Minnesota, from ever enacting laws that require the labeling of GMO foods. A number of states have come close, including California, Oregon and Colorado. And several have passed laws that would mandate labeling, including Vermont, where the first labeling law will go into effect this summer. The Senate bill would also make it much harder for companies to voluntarily label foods made with genetically engineered ingredients, as Campbell Soup plans to do.
I was surprised that Senator Amy Klobuchar, who sits on the committee, voted for the DARK Act since a survey of Minnesota voters last July showed overwhelming support for labeling. 87 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of Independents and 78 percent of Republicans endorse backing a nationwide, mandatory labeling law. I want to know what’s in my food, don’t you? It seems simple, it’s logical and its got precedent. Currently, more than 60 countries around the world give their citizens the right to know about GMOs in foods, including the EU, China and Russia.
Sen. Klobuchar acknowledged during the committee hearing that the DARK Act would likely not pass the full Senate, unless substantial changes were made. So let’s pursue the path forward that both consumers and the food industry could certainly live with. That path is laid out in a plan put forth by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) that would require GMO labels on the package, but also give food companies the flexibility they say they need to make that happen. This proposal has already received the backing of the Just Label It coalition.
On behalf of my fellow Minnesotans, and in the spirit of national leadership on this issue, I urge Sens. Klobuchar and Franken to work together to ensure the right that nearly 90 percent of voters in Minnesota want and deserve becomes the law of the land. The American electorate is clearly fed up with the influence that corporations have in Washington. We shouldn’t be standing in the way of a simple, non-judgmental ingredient label the majority of voters want, and doing so at the behest of big food corporations only increases our frustration with our elected leaders in Congress.