Rep. Welch remarks on House floor defending Vermont's first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law
"Mr. Speaker, a little background on this bill: this started in Vermont. There was a strong citizen movement to have the right to know what was in their food. It was not a battle about the science of GMOs, or about whether it was healthy or not. It was really based on the proposition that for a consumer who wishes to know what is in their food—whether it’s the number of calories, or whether it’s GMO produced—they had a right to know. It’s as simple as that.
"The irony here is that the pushback has been from folks who are advocating the benefits of GMOs—and if they’re so great, why not brag about it by putting it on the label? Why hide it? It really doesn’t make a lot of sense. And in Vermont, we had a bipartisan vote in the Senate, 28 to 2, and a strong bipartisan vote in the House that was based upon the right of Vermonters who wanted to know whether there were GMOs, to have that knowledge.
"There was a lot of pushback initially by industry, but some of the industry has kind of got it right. If the consumer wants to know, let them know. Kellogg’s, Campbell’s Soup—both now have labelling on their products and let the consumers know. What’s really the big deal?
"Now, we’ve got a bill from the Senate that frankly, when you look at it, it’s kind of dumb. Because what it does is give options on how, quote, you label. You can use English, where right on the label you can read GMOs or not. That makes sense. But then there’s another mechanism where there’s a barcode. You’ve got to go to the store with your iPhone, scan the barcode, and when you’re grocery shopping, you’re trying to get home, get dinner on, you’ve got kids who’ve got to go to a school practice, and you’re supposed to stop and scan the barcode, go to a website to see whether that can of black bean soup has GMOs or not.
"And then the other option you can have is you can, in the middle of the store, dial a 1-800 number, get a call center, probably overseas, and talk to somebody and ask them whether this can of soup that you’re holding 5,000 miles away from the person you’re talking to contains GMOs or not.
"So, we’ve got this situation where in the Senate bill that we’re now considering, there’s an acknowledgment that there should be a label, but it contains a label that’s impossible to read. So, if there is an acknowledgment about the right of a consumer to have access to the information, why not give them the information in plain and simple English? We don’t have to do dumb end-arounds in order to give consumers the information they’re seeking—and that’s the essence of the opposition to this bill. Make it simple, keep it simple, let people know what it is they’re buying so they can make the decision. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.”