Free Market versus Privileged GM Foods
Brave New Farm: The Battle Over Genetically-Altered Food
Here is a news item sent out from the oddly-named Center for Responsive Politics and the Grassroots Media Network.
by Holly BaileyA battle that could change the way Americans look at their food is cooking on Capitol Hill, as Congress prepares to jump into the emotional debate over how to regulate genetically modified food. At issue: whether produce, meats or other food products created through bioengineering should be labeled to indicate as such.
It's a subject that has caused plenty of controversy throughout Europe, where the British government - gun shy after several food safety debacles in recent years -- now requires full disclosure of products created with genetically altered ingredients. Lawmakers there say not enough research has been done to indicate whether wonder foods, like freeze-resistant tomatoes or corn crops that repel insects, truly are safe to eat.
Consumer groups, environmental activists and some members of Congress have echoed such concerns. A bipartisan group of lawmakers - including Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jack Metcalf (R-Wa.) -- last week introduced legislation that would require food manufacturers that use genetically engineered ingredients in their food to disclose such practices on product labels, similar to the way they report fat and calorie content.
More than three dozen of Washington's largest trade associations have joined to lobby on the issue, forming the Alliance for Better Foods. The AFB - whose 38 members include such groups as the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the Food Marketing Institute - aims to promote the 'benefits' of biotech food to Congress and members of the public. AFB members, during the first nine months of 1999, reported more than $676,000 in soft money, PAC and individual contributions to members of Congress, 83 percent to Republicans.
But that's not all the money being spent by groups lobbying on the issue. Nearly every member of the AFB coalition boasts a membership of hundreds of companies throughout the agriculture industry, which accounted for $43.3 million in campaign contributions during the 1998 election cycle.
That's not to mention lobbying from specific biotech companies, including Monsanto, DuPont and Novartis Seeds, which the New York Times reports are preparing to launch a campaign to counter scientific charges that genetically modified foods aren't safe. Combined, those companies spent more than $6 million lobbying members of Congress and the Clinton administration in 1998. In addition, the US Chamber of Commerce, one of Washington's most powerful privileged-trade groups, also appears to be jumping into the fray, as it hosts a series of forums on the topic.
The Food and Drug Administration this week launches a series of public hearings to examine the issue of genetically altered foods. In addition, discussion of US policy on the new foods is expected to dominate talks at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle later this month. There, the European Union is expected to push a proposal to give its member countries the option of banning food products they feel could be dangerous. That could spell financial disaster for US agribusinesses, who export millions of dollars in beef and crops developed using biotechnology overseas each year.
For a look at how much AFB members have spent on campaign contributions during 1999, as well as who they gave to, visit this site:
What are the genetic manipulators trying to hide? Why won't they voluntarily give consumers the information that they seek? Tell your opinion to The Progress Report:
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