08 May 2017
United States: $3 Million Earmarked for 'Government-Controlled Propaganda Campaign to Convince Americans GMOs Are Safe'
by Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch, 5 May 2017
The recently passed Congressional budget that averted government shutdown will allocate $3 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to promote "the environmental, nutritional, food safety, economic and humanitarian impacts" of biotech crops and genetically modified (GMO) ingredients in food to consumers—many of whom are wary of the products.
While the specifics of the campaign are yet unclear, the measure calls for the "publication and distribution of science-based educational information."
According to the Washington Post, more than 50 agriculture and food industry groups said the funding is needed to counter "a tremendous amount of misinformation about agricultural biotechnology in the public domain."
But Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) opposed the measure, describing it as government-sponsored GMO propaganda.
"It is not the responsibility of the FDA to mount a government-controlled propaganda campaign to convince the American public that genetically modified foods are safe," Lowey said during a congressional hearing. "The FDA has to regulate the safety of our food supply and medical devices. They are not, nor should they be, in the pro-industry advertising business."
And as Andy Kimbrell, the executive director of the Center for Food Safety, noted, "Monsanto has plenty of money to advocate for GMOs ... Why do we need to use taxpayer dollars?"
The vast majority of scientists consider GMOs safe to eat, even though a sizable chunk, 39 percent, of U.S. consumers do not. However, GMO proponents say that's just an issue of communication.
"Clearly, communication of the benefits of biotechnology from the scientific community has not gone well, and this presents an opportunity to engage with the public in a more meaningful dialogue," Mark Rieger, the dean of the University of Delaware's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, told The Post. "We see it as a communication issue, not a political one."
Still, there are many social and environmental concerns over GMOs. Critics highlight the biotech industry's influence on politicians and policies via sizable campaign donations and lobbying.
The Post reported that Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-Ala.), the chair of the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee and defender of the GMO education funding, received $10,000 from agritech giant Monsanto in 2016.
"This is a really clear example of big ag influencing policy," said Dana Perls, the senior food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth. "The Trump administration is putting big ag before consumer desire and public health ... Consumers do not want this."