Archive for March, 2016
Senator McConnell and Senator Roberts Contort Senate Procedures Like a Pretzel
to Keep Monsanto, Agriculture Giants and Grocery Manufacturer’s Association Happy!
March 14, 2016: Media Pundits Remind Us Daily that Americans Are ANGRY at Washington. The latest legislative machinations of senators determined to protect the interests of corporate giants over the wishes of the American people regarding mandatory labeling of bioengineered (GMO) foods underscore exactly what is wrong in Washington.
American consumers have overwhelmingly sought to have genetically modified foods labeled for two decades. Vermont is the first state to pass legislation that will be enacted in 2016. While Republicans typically defend the rights of States, and push to leave authorities with the States, they have complied with industry request to establish a national labeling standard. The catch, is they are not meeting or exceeding the state mandatory labeling provision, but lowering the standard to voluntary, in essence the standard that already exists because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) got it wrong from day one of regulating GMOs.
A House bill, H.R.1599 – Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 originally drafted by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, passed in July 2015. The Senate Agriculture Committee took up the issue, with Chairman Roberts posting a draft bill, which was voted out of Committee on March 1, 2016. He then introduced that bill as S. 2609. The two bills do not match.
Tonight, Senator McConnell on behalf of Senator Roberts last night posted Amendment No. 3450 as a Substitute Amendment to replace S. 764 as a mechanism to pass a new version of his voluntary biotech food labeling bill (different than what came out of Committee. The original S. 764 introduced by Mr. Wicker (for himself, Mr. Schatz, Mr. Sullivan, and Ms. Cantwell) was about to “reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act” and passed the Senate in July 2015 under Unanimous Consent.
In Mid-September the House, using the nature of a full substitute mechanism, struck all of the language after the enacting clause and insert a defunding planned parenthood bill in its place. The bill that was engrossed and sent back to the Senate as S. 764 “Resolved, That the bill from the Senate (S. 764) entitled “An Act to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, and for other purposes.”, do pass with the following AMENDMENT: Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert: SECTION 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the “Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015”.” Not a single word regarding National Sea Grant College Program remained.
Now, S. 764 is to have come up for cloture vote maybe as soon as Wednesday, shorting cutting all of the standard legislative procedures and open discussion with a new version of Sen Robert’s S. 2609 voluntary labeling of biotech (GMO) foods bill which seeks to permanently preserve biotech food labeling as voluntary.
Setting aside the issue of GMO labeling, how is no Senator objecting to this sleight of hand on bills? How does a bill regarding the National Sea Grant College Program leave the Senate and come back a bill on Defunding Planned Parenthood and then get switched a second time to a Biotech (GMO) food labeling bill? Why is no Senator opposing this manipulation of the process?
What is in the new bill? In comparing the Amendment to the text of S. 2609 (which was voted out of the Agriculture Committee), there are several pages inserted into the middle of the Bill. A section references bar code voluntary labeling was inserted; the language on State Food Labeling Standard is different and includes an additional provision on instructing the Secretary of Agriculture to establish consistency between this provision and Organic food provisions. An apparently new provision was introduced as well – Section 294 which provides instruction on rulemaking regarding food labeling related to bioengineered foods and define the term ‘most frequently consumed labeled foods’. Also new is Section 294a which calls for the Secretary to establish a mandatory labeling standard if certain very complex (and potentially impossible to meet) provisions are met during rulemaking. It also includes language similar to the House version related to not implying risk of harm from bioengineered foods.
At the end of the day, the new S. 764 seeks to placate the very generous political donors such as Monsanto, GMA (who were just found guilty of skirting disclosure laws in the Washington State battle two years ago) and all of their member companies and ignores the wishes of the American people.
Can this bill be stopped? Yes, if the Senators do not get 60 colleagues to vote for Cloture. The cloture process, suspends the debate (which is not even taking place apparently); and Senator McConnell and Senator Roberts can move to vote on passage. It can also be stopped is even one Senator objects and puts a hold on the Bill. There are PLENTY Of reasons to put a hold on this bill. Senator Wicker, Schatz, Sullivan, and Cantwell could object to the hijacking of their original bill.
What Can I Do? Time is Short for Action but We Can and Should Act.
1. We all need to get involved immediately and call our own Senators and ask to vote no on Cloture on S. 764; vote not on passage of S. 764.
The Senate Switchboard is 202-224-3121
2. Consider going on the internet to http://www.senate.gov and go to the page for your two Senators – they will each have an online email – send a short message identifying yourself as a Constituent, and asking the Senator to vote no on S. 764 the Biotech (GMO) voluntary labeling bill. Ask for a follow up contact from the Senate office in the email.
3. If you use Facebook and Twitter and send messages to your Senators opposing passage of S. 764.
The POP Campaign agrees with American consumers – we do not want to be kept in the DARK, we want mandatory labeling of GMO foods. (http://popcampaign.org)
3/12 UPDATE ON OUR NEXT CHESS MOVE – our best information we have is that heavy duty negotiations are still in play among the Senate leadership on both sides of the GMOP labeling issue. We will keep you informed….please continue calling your Senators: YES on bill S 2621 and NO on S 2609 – Capitol switchboard @ 202-224-3121 – small steps but important steps.
UPDATE 3/4: ““It was the best of Bills, it was the worst of Bills.” Charles Dickens if he were looking at Washington GMO Labeling Bil Today
(You’ll always call your Senators and voice your support: 202-224-3121) Senators Merkley, Leahy, Tester, Feinstein introduce a GMO labeling bill – S 2621. This legislation ensures that consumers can find GMO labeling on food packaging while ensuring that food producers are not subject to confusing or conflicting labeling requirements throughout the Country. Introduced in the Senate HELP Committee. We do not know when a hearing is scheduled.
Senator Roberts railroaded through the Agriculture Committee Bill 2609 – yes – the meeting took about an hour and he asked for a vote (11 to 6) before he even heard comments from all of the Senators. This bill amends the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national VOLUNTARY labeling standard for bioengineered foods, and for other purposes.
Really funny in the hearing is that, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, himself a corn and soybean farmer, spoke and seemed to establish a new standard for safety in science – that he as a farmer goes out into the field to check if the crop is ready for harvest by popping corn kernels or soy in his mouth and that he is perfectly healthy!
Oh my…….. move over Donald.
Other Senators who were opposed, realizing the futility of the situation, simply spoke of their opposition but saved their push back for another time….possibly even a Senate floor fight.