Congressman Jim McGovern

Representing the 2nd District of Massachussetts
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McGovern: Americans Deserve a Stronger GMO Labeling Bill

Jul 13, 2016
Press Release
McGovern Calls Out House GOP Bill for Weak GMO Labeling Requirements

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today on the House floor, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) led debate for House Democrats against S. 764, a bill that would allow food companies to meet GMO labeling requirements by using “quick response” or QR codes to identify products that contain GMOs. McGovern called such a label confusing and complicated, saying that a clear symbol or text would be the best option for consumers.

Congressman McGovern has been a leading voice in Congress calling for strong GMO labeling. In July 2015, McGovern called for the defeat of previous legislation that would fall short of the transparency needed for American consumers to make informed choices about the food they buy. Click here for video of today’s speech.

Excerpts of Congressman McGovern’s Speech:

“Every American has a fundamental right to know what’s in the food they eat. Plain and simple. I believe they ought to have that right and that’s what today’s debate is about. Whether you love GMOs or hate them, we should all agree that you ought to know if they are in the food you’re feeding your family and your children.

“This legislation provides three options for labeling: words on the package – which makes sense, a symbol to be developed by USDA – which makes sense, but then there’s this – a so-called “Quick response” or QR code. It was at the behest of big industry that the QR code be listed as an option. Not what’s in the interest of the American consumer, but what a few special interests want.

“In order to access the information through the QR code, an individual must have a smartphone and must have access to the internet. The reality is that not every American has access to a smartphone or the internet.

“One-in-five Americans in the U.S. does not have smartphones. That includes 50 percent of Americans who are low-income and living in rural areas, and over 65 percent of elderly Americans. If we end up going down the route of a QR code, all of these people will be prevented from accessing the information that this bill is supposed to make available to all consumers. And even if someone has a smartphone, they will have to scan every single item they purchase in order to obtain the desired information, and this is assuming they will have access to the internet in the grocery store. That’s anything but a quick response.

“It is a bad idea. It is a bad idea. It is an intentional measure to deny consumers information. We considered what we called the DARK Act on the House floor a few months ago. This is the son of the DARK Act. It keeps people in the dark about what’s in the food that they’re buying.

“The debate about GMO labeling is about transparency and the right of every American to know what’s in the food they eat. It’s very simple. The best approach would be a clear and easy-to-understand label or symbol, not some crazy QR code that only creates more hassle and confusion. 

“The majority of Americans favor mandatory GMO labels that are clear, straightforward, and easy to understand. 

“Wouldn’t it be nice if – I know this is a radical idea in this Congress – but wouldn’t it be nice if for once – this Congress actually did what the American people want?

“Keeping our constituents in the dark should not be tolerated and this bill should be soundly defeated by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Click here for video of today’s speech.

Full Text of Congressman McGovern’s Speech:

“This week, instead of addressing the pressing issues I previously mentioned, the House will be voting on a weak, a very, very weak GMO labeling bill and yet another piece of legislation that attacks a woman’s right to choose. 

“Every American has a fundamental right to know what’s in the food they eat. Plain and simple. I believe they ought to have that right and that’s what today’s debate is about.

“To be clear, today’s debate is not about the science behind GMOs. It’s also not about whether GMOs are good or bad. Whether you love GMOs or hate them, we should all agree that you ought to know if they are in the food you’re feeding your family and your children.

“The Food and Drug Administration requires labeling of thousands of ingredients, additives and processes, many of which have nothing to do with safety or nutrition. For example, the FDA requires mandatory labeling of juice when it’s from concentrate. It’s just one of the ways we tell people what’s in their food and how it’s made.

“This piece of legislation would require companies to label their products if they contain GMOs and I strongly support that sentiment. But this legislation provides three options for labeling: words on the package – which makes sense, a symbol to be developed by USDA – which makes sense, but then there’s this – a so-called “Quick response” or QR code. It was at the behest of big industry that the QR code be listed as an option. Not what’s in the interest of the American consumer, but what a few special interests want.

“Now, I would be much more comfortable with a bill that requires either words or a symbol, but a QR code is something that I cannot support and nobody here should support that. In order to access the information through the QR code, an individual must have a smartphone and must have access to the internet. The reality is that not every American has access to a smartphone or the internet.

“Look, I don’t get reception at a local grocery store here in D.C. – just a couple blocks from where we are here in the Capitol. It’s frustrating. What good would a QR code do if I can’t get a data signal using my phone? 

“One-in-five Americans in the U.S. does not have smartphones. That includes 50 percent of Americans who are low-income and living in rural areas, and over 65 percent of elderly Americans. If we end up going down the route of a QR code, all of these people will be prevented from accessing the information that this bill is supposed to make available to all consumers. And even if someone has a smartphone, they will have to scan every single item they purchase in order to obtain the desired information, and this is assuming they will have access to the internet in the grocery store. That’s anything but a quick response.

“It is a bad idea. It is a bad idea. It is an intentional measure to deny consumers information. We considered what we called the DARK Act on the House floor a few months ago. This is the son of the DARK Act. It keeps people in the dark about what’s in the food that they’re buying.

“The debate about GMO labeling is about transparency and the right of every American to know what’s in the food they eat. It’s very simple. The best approach would be a clear and easy-to-understand label or symbol, not some crazy QR code that only creates more hassle and confusion. 

“From the very beginning of the debate about GMO labeling, some in the food industry have stuck to two main arguments. They have said that GMO’s are perfectly safe and that it would cost far too much for them to add a symbol or words to their packaging. But, once they came up with the idea to put a large QR code on their packaging that they hope consumers will just simply ignore or not be able to access, they suddenly dropped their complaints about the financial cost of changing their package.

“The truth is that the QR code will take up more space on their packaging than any symbol or simple written label would and the QR code is going to have to include wording as well. It would be so much easier and better for consumers for the food industry to just use wording or a symbol and not this complicated, confusing QR code.

“And we know that food companies change labels on their products all the time. Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream said that it is a normal cost of business to change their packaging. Campbell’s Soup has committed to including words on their packaging and has said that in doing this there will not be an increase in food prices. I want to thank Campbell’s as well as Mars and Dannon for all committing to using words on their label, and not some kind of confusing QR code.

“The majority of Americans favor mandatory GMO labels that are clear, straightforward, and easy to understand. 

“Wouldn’t it be nice if – I know this is a radical idea in this Congress – but wouldn’t it be nice if for once – this Congress actually did what the American people want?

“Keeping our constituents in the dark should not be tolerated and this bill should be soundly defeated by Democrats and Republicans alike.”

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