(Senate - May 23, 2013)

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[Pages S3796-S3797]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                             FOOD LABELING

  Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. President, I understand that the distinguished 
chairperson of the sometimes powerful Senate Agriculture Committee will 
be on the floor to lock in amendment No. 965 by Senator Sanders.
  I rise in opposition to that amendment. The amendment would allow 
States to require--let me emphasize the word, ``require''--that any 
food, beverage, or other product be labeled if it contains a 
genetically engineered ingredient.
  Now, that is how it is described mostly in this debate: a genetically 
engineered ingredient. I think it would be more accurately called 
modern science to feed a very troubled and hungry world.
  We already have policies and procedures, I would tell my colleagues, 
in place at the Food and Drug Administration to address labeling of 
foods that are derived from modern biotechnology. The U.S. standards 
ensure that all labels for all foods are truthful and are not 
misleading to the public.
  FDA has a scientifically based review process to evaluate all food 
  The Food and Drug Administration states:

       FDA has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods 
     are different from other foods in any meaningful or uniform 
     way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new 
     techniques present any or greater safety concern than foods 
     developed by traditional plant breeding.

  The FDA reviews products and determines that they are safe. I think 
we need to trust the science of their review and allow this process to 
  The amendment by Senator Sanders would result in additional costs to 
food producers, and that is going to come right back to consumers. The 
FDA has determined that approved biotech crops are not materially 
different than conventional crops and therefore do not require 
segregation from conventional crops.
  The only difference--if you have a bioengineered product, and let's 
say you come from Africa, one of the countries over there that 
continually has a very difficult time trying to feed themselves--the 
only difference is if you use a bioengineered product that makes that 
crop more resistant to heat or to rain or to a particular insect that 
is causing a lot of problems--you have a choice: You can have a crop or 
you can have no crop or you can have perhaps a crop with a pesticide or 
you can have a bioengineered product that is perfectly safe.
  Furthermore, a change in policy would place additional costs on 
farmers by potentially requiring them to segregate crops and change 
their equipment. It would also be very problematic for grain processing 
facilities. I know some fail to recognize--and I know many criticize--
the importance of biotechnology or criticize the safety of the product. 
I just say, let science be the judge. Each product goes through 
extensive tests to ensure safety to both human health and the 
  There are different views, of course, on farming, and some of my 
colleagues in the Senate believe we should focus on those that only 
farm a few acres--the small family farmer; somebody about 5 foot 3 
inches from Vermont--and then grow organic crops and sell them to the 
local farmers market. There is nothing wrong with that. I encourage 
that. There is nothing wrong with organic farming, and there is 
certainly nothing wrong with regard to farmers who farm less acres. God 
bless them.

[[Page S3797]]

  However, if we are going to supply enough food for this growing 
population around the world--9 billion more people in the next several 
decades--we need agriculture of all types, and that includes organic 
and conventional and biotech crops. The more nations we can help to 
feed and bring economic prosperity, the more stable the world will 
become. That is good for our families, our Nation, and the world, and 
the world's stability. We can only do that through commonsense policies 
based on sound science that will allow our producers to do what they 
need to do to get the job done.
  My colleagues--and I see the distinguished chairperson. I will 
conclude in just about 30 seconds. I am glad she is here. I will just 
say to my colleagues in the Senate that we should not be putting on lab 
coats individually and taking action on this amendment. We have a clear 
scientifically based review process that works. If we pass this 
amendment, probably in Vermont, California, you will have a 
requirement; some other States may or may not; in Kansas we will not, 
and so our State legislature would have no need of putting on lab 
  At any rate, the FDA has guidance for voluntary labeling, and 
companies can choose to voluntarily label food and products if their 
customers want it, if they demand it. Let the consumer decide.
  I urge my colleagues to reject this amendment.
  I yield back.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Michigan.