By Donald Zuhn --
Last week, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) (at right) introduced three bills in the House related to the labeling of food containing genetically engineered material, the cultivation and handling of genetically engineered crops, and the establishment of a set of farmer rights regarding genetically engineered animals, plants, and seeds:
• The "Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act" (H.R. 5577) would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Federal Meat Inspection Act, and the Poultry Products Inspection Act to require that food that contains a genetically engineered material, or that is produced with a genetically engineered material, be labeled accordingly. The bill states that "[t]he process of genetically engineering foods results in the material change of such foods," and asserts that "Federal agencies have failed to uphold Congressional intent by allowing genetically engineered foods to be marketed, sold and otherwise used without labeling that reveals material facts to the public." The bill, which has been referred to the House Committees on Agriculture and Energy and Commerce, was co-sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Barney Frank (D-MA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
• The "Genetically Engineered Safety Act" (H.R. 5578) would "prohibit the open-air cultivation of genetically engineered pharmaceutical and industrial crops, . . . prohibit the use of common human food or animal feed as the host plant for a genetically engineered pharmaceutical or industrial chemical, . . . establish a tracking system to regulate the growing, handling, transportation, and disposal of pharmaceutical and industrial crops and their byproducts to prevent human, animal, and general environmental exposure to genetically engineered pharmaceutical and industrial crops and their byproducts, [and] amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to the safety of genetically engineered foods." Noting that "[m]any of the novel substances produced in pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops exhibit high levels of biological activity and are intended to be used for particular medical or industrial purposes, under very controlled circumstances," and that "[n]one of these substances is intended to be incorporated in food or to be spread into the environment," the bill declares that the risks of contamination "necessitate a zero tolerance standard for the presence of pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops and their byproducts in crops used to produce human food or animal feed." The bill, which has been referred to the House Committees on Agriculture and Energy and Commerce, was co-sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Barney Frank (D-MA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
• The "Genetically Engineered Technology Farmer Protection Act" (H.R. 5579) would "provide additional protections for farmers and ranchers that may be harmed economically by genetically engineered seeds, plants, or animals, . . . ensure fairness for farmers and ranchers in their dealings with biotech companies that sell genetically engineered seeds, plants, or animals, [and] assign liability for injury caused by genetically engineered organisms." The bill states that "[p]olicies promoted by biotech corporations, such as patenting of seeds, depriving farmers the right to save seed, unreasonable seed contracts, and intrusion into everyday farm operations, have systematically acted to remove basic farmer rights enjoyed since the beginning of agriculture and essential for agricultural sustainability and the survival of family farms," and asserts that "[t]he introduction of genetically engineered crops has also created obstacles for farmers, including the loss of markets and increased liability concerns." The purpose of H.R. 5579 is "[t]o mitigate the abuses upon farmers, a clear set of farmer rights must be established." Among the rights that would be created by the bill are (1) a requirement for biotech companies to fully disclose the risks of using genetically engineered animals, plants, or seeds, and (2) the prohibition of certain terms and limitations in contracts for the sale of genetically engineered animals, plants, or seeds, including a provision that would "prohibit the purchaser from retaining a portion of the harvested crop for future crop planting by the purchaser or that charge a fee to retain a portion of the harvested crop for future crop planting." H.R. 5579 would allow for a maximum $100,000 penalty to be assessed for violations of the Act. The bill, which has been referred to the House Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, and Judiciary Committees, was co-sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Barney Frank (D-MA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
In a press release posted on Rep. Kucinich's website, the Congressman stated that:
To ensure we can maximize benefits and minimize hazards, Congress must provide a comprehensive regulatory framework for all Genetically Engineered products. Structured as a common-sense precaution to ensure [Genetically Engineered] foods do no harm, these bills will ensure that consumers are protected, food safety measures are strengthened, farmers’ rights are better protected and biotech companies are responsible for their products.
The release noted that Rep. Kucinich had introduced similar bills in previous sessions of Congress.