View press releases and related documents on agricultureGenetically Engineered Foods
Congressman Kucinich has established himself as a leading advocate for genetically engineered food regulation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Kucinich believes that the American citizen must have the right to choose what foods they and their family eat and be assured of the safety of those foods. The current lack of regulation of genetically engineered do not respect those rights.
On July 29, 2008, Congressman Kucinich introduced three genetically engineered food bills combing those he originally introduced in 2003. The three bills include H.R. 6636, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, H.R. 6635, the Genetically Engineered Food Safety Act and H.R. 6637, the Genetically Engineered Technology Farmer Protection Act. Congressman Kucinich will reintroduce this legislation in the 111th Session of Congress.
The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act:
Consumers deserve to know whether the food they purchase and consume is a GE food. This bill requires food companies to label all foods that contain or are produced with genetically engineered material. The bill establishes a legal framework to ensure the accuracy of labeling without creating significant economic hardship on the food production system.
The Genetically Engineered Safety Act:
Given the consensus among the scientific community that genetic engineering can potentially introduce hazards, such as allergens or toxins, GE foods need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, contamination by pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops pose substantial liability and economic risks to farmers, grain handlers and food companies. This bill would therefore, require the FDA to screen all GE foods through the current food additive process to ensure safety for human consumption and require that unique concerns be explicitly examined. Furthermore, the bill places a temporary moratorium on pharmaceutical crops and industrial crops until all regulations required by the bill are in effect.
The Genetically Engineered Technology Farmer Protection Act:
Policies promoted by agribusiness and biotech corporations, including the selling of a technology that has been commercialized far in advance of the science of genetic engineering, have systematically acted to remove the basic rights of farmers. This legislation gives farmers the ability to save seeds and seek compensation for failed GE crops, prohibits genetic engineering designed to produce sterile seeds and places all liability from negative impacts of GE organisms squarely upon the biotechnology companies that created the GE organism.
Organic farming is one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. agriculture. There are currently over 16,000 organic farms and over 11,000 conventional farms that are converting additional acres into organic. Reliable economic data is critical for any industry. In recent years, the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the USDA has engaged in the collection and analysis of segregated organic data, which has been highly valued by the organics industry. The need and demand for this information will continue to increase. As such, Congressman Kucinich has supported robust funding for the Organic Production and Marketing Data Initiative (OPMDI)to ensure that critical economic data is available to those in the organics industry.
On July 8, 2009, Congressman Kucinich worked with Chairwoman DeLauro during debate on the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2010 to help ensure funding for the OPMDI. Arguing that only $500,000 of the $82.5 million budget of the Economic Research Service would help meet the needs of the Initiative, Congressman Kucinich garnered the support of Chairwoman DeLauro.
National Organic Standards
In 1990, Congress passed the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) and directed the Department of Agriculture to implement national organic standards. The USDA finally published a set of proposed rules for national organic standards in December 1997. This first draft of the proposed rule, however, undermined some of the fundamental principles of organic farming. The organic industry instantly mobilized to protect standards that farmers have been following for decades.
On April 20, 1998, Congressman Kucinich joined a bipartisan coalition of 38 of his colleagues in sending a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman. In this letter, they urged the USDA to work closely with the organic industry to revise the rules so that they are based on the historical practices of the industry and in line with consumer expectations of organic products. Congressman Kucinich worked closely with Rep. Peter DeFazio in generating support from other members of Congress for the letter to Secretary Glickman. Also, he authored a "Dear Colleague" letter asking members to sign this letter.
On April 20, 1998, Congressman Kucinich also submitted his own comments on the proposed rules to the USDA. Citing the increased popularity of organic products in the marketplace and the great impact strict national standards would have on the industry, the Congressman suggested several changes to the proposed rules, including prohibiting irradiation of organic products, bio-solids as fertilizer, and genetically engineered organisms in organic productions. Congressman Kucinich also advocated strict oversight of any synthetic substances used in organic production and the humane treatment of organically raised animals. His comments were included as part of the official comment record on the National Organic Program.
On May 8, 1998, as a result of Congressman Kucinich's comments and those submitted by many others, Secretary Glickman announced that he would make substantial changes to the proposed rules. He noted that the final rule would prohibit the use of irradiation, bio-solids and genetically engineered organisms in organic farming and production.
In a statement in the Congressional Record, Congressman Kucinich rose in defense of strong organic standards and in support of Secretary Glickman's decision to revise the rules.
On June 23, 1998, Congressman Kucinich engaged the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Representative Skeen, in a colloquy during the debate of the Agriculture Appropriations bill. During the colloquy, the Chairman expressed his commitment to high organic standards that follow the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board and his request for the timely release a second draft of the proposed rules.
As the conferees for the Agriculture Appropriations bill prepared for their conference, Congressman Kucinich wrote and organized support for a letter urging them to retain language included in the Senate bill that will offset the high costs of organic certification for small organic farmers during the first round of certification under the new rules proposed by USDA. The Senate language also directs the Secretary to follow the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board in issuing a list of acceptable synthetic substances that may be used in organic farming.
In December 2000, the final rule for a national organic standard was issued and received strong support from organic consumers and farmers. Congressman Kucinich supports these rules and believes they will expand the organic food industry.
Protecting the Integrity of our Food Export Markets
Congressman Kucinich successfully challenged H.R. 3421, the Reauthorization of the Grain Standards Act, because it needlessly privatized grain inspectors, which could harm our agriculture export market.
In the mid 1970s, the inspection service was federalized following several scandals involving some growers tried to cheat foreign buyers by, for example, substituting sawdust for grain.
Today, with federal inspectors on the job, our foreign customers are confident in the quality of US grain. But many of these foreign buyers have spoken publicly about their reservations of a private inspection system. Such a scheme may harm US grains exports, something our farmers cannot afford.
Congressman Kucinich’s opposition resulted in the removal of the risky privatization language from the bill. Grain farmers will continue to have a reliable inspection system that ensures their market remains viable.New Growth Opportunity for Farmers: Biodiesel
Congressman Kucinich successfully attached two amendments to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that will help farmers begin new energy independence initiatives.
The first amendment directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a feasibility study of mustard seed as a feedstock for biodiesel. Mustard seed has many advantages over other feedstocks including higher oil content, it's easier to grow in the colder and drier climates of the US, and the conversion process leaves behind an organic pesticide and herbicide. Initial research studies by the University of Idaho and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have shown favorable results.
Congressman Kucinich believes farmers are the key to eliminating our dependency on foreign oil. Farmers have many growing options for biomass feedstocks, but it is imperative that we find the best feedstocks that will eliminate are dependency as soon as possible.
This amendment won a bipartisan approval on the House floor by a vote of 259 to 171, including 68 Republicans.
The second amendment attached by Congressman Kucinich and Congresswomen Kaptur from Toledo, Ohio doubles the number of Department of Energy Clean City programs that could apply for a pilot program to invest in alternative fuel vehicles. The amendment ensures more cities benefit from alternative fuel vehicles.
Farmers and our urban centers can work together to eliminate our foreign dependency on oil. Farmers grow biomass feedstocks that can then be processed locally to supply nearby cities such as Cleveland and Toledo. Farmers benefit with new and more stable markets, our fuel supply is home grown thus reducing our dependence on foreign oil, fuel prices are reduced and the air we breathe is cleaner. The goal is to use northern Ohio as a showcase for a sustainable energy system from farm to city.