[HCCN] Senator King's position on GMO labeling

Dick Atlee atlee at dickatlee.com
Wed Oct 7 12:12:30 EDT 2015

I think Senator King (202-224-5344) is particularly important to contact. 
Below is a response he sent to me on September 9 about HR 1599.

He says he's sympathetic to state labeling requirements, which one would 
think would be enough to have him oppose The DARK Act (HR1599). But he or 
his staff have apparently bought into a number of the false statements that 
the industry promulgated in defeating labeling initiatives in CA, WA, and 
CO, such as that GMOs will feed the world (which in reality has failed to 
materialize over and over again), and that labeling will cost consumers a 
lot of money (which simply hasn't happened where it has been done). He also 
thinks the Monsanto-bought USDA will come up with a good plan for non-GMO 
labeling, but which will preempt and destroy the existing mechanism.

So he sounds like he's teetering on the fence. Please give him a gentle shove.


-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: Responding to your message
Date: Wed, 9 Sep 2015 16:26:56 -0400
From: Senator Angus King <Senator at King.senate.gov>

I know that people in Maine feel very strongly about labeling for 
genetically engineered (GE) foods, and I want to help move this discussion 
forward at the national level. While I support the right of states' to 
implement mandatory GE food labeling laws, I have concerns with this 
approach at the federal level.  These concerns include the possibility that 
a mandatory GE labeling law will impinge upon valuable scientific research, 
not properly reflect consumer safety concerns, and raise food costs for 
American families. In my opinion, a much better path forward would be to 
develop a national positive labeling system, much like the United States 
Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s organic model.

First and foremost, I continue to believe that states should have the right 
to establish their own standards for GE labeling. State actions, like those 
in Vermont and Maine, show the continued desire for mandatory labelling 
laws and federal legislation should not prevent these actions. My strong 
belief in the states' right to act motivated my vote for Senator Sanders's 
Amendment 965 to the Senate Farm Bill, which would have clarified the 
states' right to require GE labeling. Unfortunately, the Sanders' amendment 
was not included in the 2014 Farm Bill.

That being said, GE crops stand to have significant economic benefits for 
low-income individuals around the world. Currently, 90% of the 18 million 
farmers – roughly 16.5 million farmers - that harvest GE crops are small 
scale, resource-poor farmers in developing countries. These farmers include 
harvesters of GE cotton in India, where GE cotton has led to increased 
income, increased calorie intake, and improved dietary quality. 
Humanitarian groups, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have 
funded research for other crops that could benefit small farmers including 
rice rich with vitamin A-producing beta-carotene, and drought tolerant 
corn. While there are certainly substantial implementation issues 
surrounding the availability of these crops, their development could be a 
boon to millions of parents struggling to properly feed their children.

Additionally, there is a general scientific consensus that GE food is safe 
to consume. This fact has been reaffirmed by researchers across the globe 
and is a key reason why the United States Food and Drug Administration 
(FDA) decided not to require the mandatory labelling of GE food. Consumers 
have a right to know what is in their food, but we must be sure that the 
information conveyed to consumers is meaningful and accurate. Foods with no 
material differences shouldn't be labeled materially differently.

Cornell University conducted a study about New York's proposed GE labelling 
law which highlights the challenges of mandatory GE food labelling. 
According to the report, New York's labelling bill could cost families $500 
a year, totaling as much as $1.7 billion for New York families annually. 
Income loss for New York farmers could be significant. These costs would be 
the result of producers' sourcing their products with non-GE crops. At a 
time when many families are struggling to feed their families, raising the 
cost of food is a major concern. We must fully understand the price impacts 
of any national labeling regime.

A national system that allows producers to prove their foods are non-GE 
would be a step forward on this issue. A label for products certified by a 
third party to be non-GE can definitively tell consumers that those foods 
do not contain GE ingredients, while a label that merely says a product may 
contain GE ingredients wouldn't really provide much substantive 
information. Encouragingly, the USDA has already approved a non-GE label 
for meat and liquid egg products.

Like the USDA's organic model, this positive system would allow farmers to 
make a choice about using technology on their farms based on their specific 
needs. A producer who chooses to grow a conventional but non-GE product 
should have the ability to certify that product non-GE. This will allow 
them to capture a niche market and demand a higher price for their 
products. It is also worth noting that organic foods are already non-GE – 
consumers currently have a choice if they want a non-GE product.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important topic. I have heard 
from many people in Maine about this issue. Going forward, I will continue 
to help facilitate an open debate centered on providing consumers with 
accurate, meaningful information without being overly burdensome for producers.

If you would like to read the Cornell Study I mentioned earlier, it is 
available here: http://bit.ly/1iqIG3G. The Center for Applied Special 
Technology has conducted a very informative study on this topic, which I 
encourage you to read. It can be found here: http://bit.ly/1qt6GmT.

Best Regards,

United States Senator

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