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Concerned with Food Labeling Bill, Protestors Rally at Rep. Billy Long’s Office

Opponents of a food labeling bill in the U.S. House expressed their frustration Thursday outside of Republican Rep. Billy Long’s office in Springfield.

Introduced in March, HB 1599 seeks “to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to food produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered organism, the labeling of natural foods, and for other purposes.”

Long, who represents Missouri’s 7th Congressional District, is one of 68 co-sponsors of the legislation, which in April was referred to the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research.

Mindy Spitz is a representative of March Against Monsanto, which joined the Ozark Organic Consumers Association at Thursday’s protest.

“I think it will open the door for our food to be manipulated in a variety of ways.  But my thought is if GMOs, genetically modified organisms, are so safe like they say—then what’s the problem with labeling them?” wonders Spitz.

Formally called the Safe and Accurate Food Label Act of 2015, opponents have dubbed it the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, claiming it keeps consumers in the dark about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their food.

Dr. Patricia Patterson-Tursi is one of the protestors and a retired psychologist. She says she has been following genetic engineering for years and no longer shops at the grocery store.  Patterson-Tursi says her secret to 80 years of healthy living is knowing what she puts into her body. She says if this bill moves forward it will block each state’s ability to legislate about labeling what is actually in food the foods we eat.

“That means that all of us who do not want to eat GMOs won’t know what’s in our food.  And that is wrong.  They are taking away our right to know,” explains Patterson-Tursi.

Royce Reding, a spokesperson for Rep. Long’s office, says that the proposed legislation is about minimizing confusion and cost for both producers and consumers alike.  He met with protesters Thursday to hear their concerns. Reding says it is not about hiding what is in foods, but rather everyone being on the “same page.”

“One of the things that this legislation would do is it would direct the FDA to develop a federal definition for natural claims on product labels. Right now there are different definitions as to what ‘natural’ is,” Reding explains.

This makes it difficult for producers to keep up, Rediing continued, making it costly to comply.  He shares this cost is ultimately passed down to consumers.  

Roughly 25 people of all ages held up signs in front of Long’s office.  Among the group was Jim Evans, who ran as a Democrat against Long in November and was defeated in pursuing the 7th congressional seat.