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Public Statements

Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, I will be very brief, as I spoke on this issue before. Here is the story, using my own State of Vermont as an example, but it exists all over the country. This year the Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill by a vote of 99 to 42 requiring that genetically engineered food be labeled.

Yesterday, as I understand it, the Connecticut State Senate, by an overwhelming vote of 35 to 1, also passed legislation to require labeling of genetically engineered food. In California this issue was on the ballot. Monsanto and the other biotech companies spent something like $47 million against the right of people of California to have labeling on GMO products, and they won. The people who support labeling got 47 percent of the vote despite a huge amount of money being spent against them.

In the State of Washington, over 300,000 people have signed petitions in support of an initiative there to label genetically engineered food in that State.

A poll done earlier this year indicated that some 82 percent of the American people believe labeling should take place with regard to genetically engineered ingredients.

This is a pretty simple issue, and the issue is do the American people have a right to know what they are eating, what is in the food they are ingesting and what their kids are eating.

The problem is that a number of States, including Vermont, have gone forward on this issue. They have been met with large biotech companies like Monsanto who say if you go forward, we are going to sue you. And it will be a very costly lawsuit, because we do not believe you have the right as a State to go forward in this direction because you are preempting a Federal prerogative.

I happen not to believe that is correct. What this amendment does is very simple. It basically says States that choose to go forward on this issue do have the right. It is not condemning GMOs or anything else. It is simply saying that States have the right to go forward.

There have been some arguments against this amendment, and let me briefly touch on them. Genetically engineered food labels will not increase costs to shoppers, as we all know. Companies change their labels every day. They market their products differently. Adding a label does not change this. Everybody looks at labels. They change all the time. This would simply be an addition, new information on that label. In fact, many products already voluntarily label their food as GMO-free.

Further, genetically engineered crops are not better for the environment. Some will say, well, this is good for the environment. The use of Monsanto Roundup-ready soybeans engineered to withstand exposure to the herbicide Roundup has caused the spread of Roundup-resistant weeds which now infest 22 States, 10 million acres in 22 States, with predictions for 40 million acres or more by mid-decade. Resistant weeds increase the use of herbicides and the use of older and more toxic herbicides.

Further, there are no international agreements that permit the mandatory identification of foods produced through genetic engineering.

As I mentioned earlier, throughout Europe and in dozens of other countries around the world, this exists. It is not a very radical concept. It exists throughout the European Union and I believe, very simply, that States in this country should be able to go forward in labeling genetically modified foods if they want, and this amendment simply makes it clear they have the right to do that.

I look forward to the support of my colleagues with that amendment.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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