WASHINGTON, July 9, 2014 – Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., remains optimistic about the chances for passage of a piece of legislation he says is misidentified as a GMO bill.
H.R. 4432, officially titled the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014, was introduced April 9 and has seen no legislative action since it was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health April 11.
“We’ll get this done,” Pompeo said in a speech to a group of American Soybean Association members. “It’s going to take a lot of help from people like you, though.”
Pompeo said he didn’t think of the bill as a GMO bill or an organic bill, he thinks of it as the “bill that’s trying to feed the next billion people.”
“They truly want to prohibit the food,” Pompeo said of cities and states that have GMO labeling legislation in the works. “They would disguise it as a labeling requirement, but at the end of the day they want to ultimately ban the set of products that the world will ultimately rely on to feed itself over the next coming decades. “
One of the biggest changes Pompeo’s proposed bill would bring is a requirement that all new foods containing GMO ingredients being brought to the market must first undergo a review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), was also in the audience and pressed Pompeo to explain why the FDA would only have to review – not approve – the new products.
Pompeo said he considered allowing FDA review at all “an enormous concession” because he didn’t see it as necessary. As part of the review process, the FDA would be able to submit objection letters thanks to the mandatory review mandate in Pompeo’s legislation. Pompeo also noted a company is very unlikely to move forward with bringing the product to the marketplace until the FDA objection to the science used to produce the product is resolved.
“If FDA says no objection, it’s still not an approval,” Jacobson asserted. “It’s short of giving the public full confidence in the technology.”
Pompeo strongly disagreed, saying the weight of the science on the organic and biotechnology debate is “radically imbalanced.”
“I have not seen a peer-reviewed piece of science that indicates any health or safety risk associated with (GMO) products,” Pompeo said, asserting his belief that full FDA approval is an unnecessary step. “This is – for me – not a close call.”
The very science of the debate created quite a stir in Pompeo’s office the day he announced he was sponsoring the legislation. By his account, Pompeo said his DC office received 5,400 calls – one third of which were international calls – in that day alone in opposition to the bill. Pompeo said that kind of political pressure is what is keeping his bill from gaining cosponsors and advancing to the floor.
“You find no substantive objection to the legislation that I’ve proposed, you find political objections,” Pompeo said. “I’ve met lots of members (of Congress) frankly who are happy to move down the path alongside me, but aren’t willing to put their name on the cosponsor sheet because they know they’ll get 5,000 phone calls. I have to tell you, I find that disgusting.”
The bill currently has 25 cosponsors.
Pompeo said the bill has bipartisan support, and that has “all the impact in the world,” but did mention that if this was a Democrat bill, it would have very little chance of passing. It is Pompeo’s understanding that leadership on both sides of the aisle in the whole House as well as the Energy and Commerce committee are “prepared to help move this forward.“
Currently, no hearing on the bill is scheduled.
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