Buchanan Pushes for GMO Labeling

Government

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY JUL 12, 2018

Unless the packaging on a grocery purchase has a “No GMOs” logo on it somewhere, it can be difficult to tell whether genetically modified organisms were part of an ingredient list. Maybe you can do it by scanning a QR code on the side of every box. But U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, says that’s not enough. “If you are a senior citizen in a food store, who goes to a website?” Buchanan says. “If you are a parent who has three kids with you when you go to the grocery store, who has time for that?”

The congressman this week filed a formal objection letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture calling current labeling standards “grossly inadequate.” “As you work to issue a final rule later this year, I would urge you to go back to the drawing board and come up with a more consumer-friendly standard,” he wrote. “Regardless of whether you think GMOs are safe or not, people have a right to know what they’re eating.” The same letter also questioned proposed standards that would not consider refined sugars and oils made with modified corn and soybeans to contain GMOs.

It’s an issue Buchanan has pressed Agriculture officials on for years. In 2015, Buchanan was one of just 12 Republicans who joined with Democratic opposition fighting legislation that contained loopholes for food companies regarding GMO labeling. The next year, the House passed a bill that created more exemptions based on research that showed GMOs as safe for consumption, but Buchanan voted against it and urged President Obama to veto the legislation.

Why the interest? Buchanan says health-oriented voters on the Gulf Coast seem to have a particular interest in the issue, and his office receives a significant number of calls from concerned constituents, particularly in the Sarasota area. The calls break about 90 percent in favor of better labeling. “Maybe it’s having a Whole Foods in town, but in general people are more health conscious now,” he says. And Buchanan says that while some state movements have looked to regulate labeling, this issue ultimately should be addressed at the federal level.

He says Europe has better labeling standards now than the U.S., and figures food companies fear a loss of profits with labeling. But he notes right now non-GMO food providers go out of their way to label products as such. “You can see banners on food that say non-GMO, but if it’s genetically modified, it does’t have to have anything on the container,” he says. “We need to make it consumer-friendly.”

Photo courtesy Buchanan House office: Buchanan speaks with citrus farmers in Myakka City in January.

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