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Genetic modifications demand new transparency for food

U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar

Years ago, my father grew up on a typical, Midwestern family farm and attended college, earning his Ph.D. in chemistry.

Following in his footsteps, I learned the value of sound science and continue to appreciate families who farm and grow our food. In my younger years, I never worried about where my food came from or what was in it. I knew it came from the many farms that dot the landscape across our beautiful state.

Now, as a more aware consumer and a parent, I carefully consider what ingredients are in my food, where they come from, what they are made of and whether they are safe.

In the past couple of decades, agriculture and our food supply — like our cars, phones, and computers — have been greatly changed by improved technology. Farms across the state are impressive technological enterprises, rooted in the great tradition of growing wholesome crops as responsible stewards of the land.

Michigan farmers are now able to produce more food per acre and do so more safely than ever. This means they have more to sell here in our local grocery stores and around the world. This makes the food we buy more affordable and gives farmers greater certainty about earning a return on the crops they plant. These returns benefit their family farms and our communities throughout mid and northern Michigan.

This has been made possible by new farming methods that allow crops to be more weather-resistant and able to withstand threats from parasites and invasive species.

Genetically engineered foods, more commonly known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are widely available in the marketplace and decades of research, using sound science, has found that these foods are healthy and safe to eat.

Americans are always right to be interested in the products they are buying. Those who prefer non-GMO food should have a means of identifying it. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I am a cosponsor of House Bill 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, which the House passed this week with strong bipartisan support.

This legislation will create one nationwide, voluntary standard for the labeling of food that is genetically engineered. It also allows growers of organic or non-GMO foods to advertise in a consistent way to customers who desire their products. This will eliminate the potential burden that could emerge if different organizations or states introduce their own standards for genetically-engineered plants.

Michigan farmers who produce organic products and those who produce conventional products will benefit from greater clarity in the marketplace that allows consumers to make informed decisions. They will have only one standard to follow, simplifying the process of selling products in other states.

Michigan shoppers will enjoy knowing that there is an easy to understand standard that will tell them whether or not a product is engineered because they will know what to look for when they are grocery shopping. H.R. 1599 will ensure that interstate commerce between the states has a uniform standard that will be easily understood by the producers in one state and shoppers in another state. This is a power that Congress has under Article One of the Constitution.

Michigan family farms use technology to produce more food than ever before, keeping food safe and affordable to feed our communities, our nation and the world. The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act will create a new, better standard of transparency for food producers and consumers everywhere.

Congressman John Moolenaar, R-Midland, represents Michigan’s 4th Congressional District.