There wasn’t any controversy about genetically modified organisms on Monday at the Mid-Kansas Co-op grain storage site near Benton.
U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo was there to speak to a group of farmers who are members of MKC about an issue near to their hearts.
They all use genetically modified seeds. They wanted to hear Pompeo’s take on his bill to block states or local governments from mandating the labeling of GMOs.
Pompeo wrote the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act last year and got it approved by the U.S. House of Representatives about three weeks ago. He hopes Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts can push it through the Senate in the coming weeks.
Pompeo said he has worked with the Obama administration on some of the bill’s provisions and is confident that the president will sign the bill into law. The producers sitting around the table to listen to Pompeo found that welcome news.
Modifying the genes of the nation’s food supply in recent years has created an uproar of anger and distrust from many, but the science is clear, Pompeo said.
“Every study that has been done has shown there is no health or safety risk connected to genetically modifying organisms. None. Zero,” he said.
Big agriculture companies developed genetically modified corn and soybean seeds, among others, in recent years to use less water, fewer pesticides and survive as farmers used herbicides such as Roundup.
In Kansas this year, 95 percent of the corn and 96 percent of the soybeans are genetically engineered to survive the state’s drier climate, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It’s simple,” said Darryl Meyersick, a farmer in Benton. “GMOs have made it possible to grow dryland corn and soybeans in Kansas.”
The farmers gathered Monday said that allowing some places in the U.S. to mandate GMO labels on food would cause more people to avoid GMO food, forcing many farmers and co-ops to grow GMO and non-GMO crops and keep them separate.
Dave Christiansen, CEO and president of MKC, a co-op based in Moundridge with 9,400 members in central and south-central Kansas, said being forced to segregate grain would increase costs substantially.
Farmers would have to plant separate fields, have to clean equipment between handling, and haul it separately. The co-ops would have segregated grain bins and the haulers segregated grain trucks and rail cars.
Pompeo’s bill does not forbid farmers from growing non-GMO food and to label it that way for customers who don’t want GMOs.
“If a consumer wants to sign on for non-GMO food, neither I nor anybody in this room wants to prevent them from doing that,” he said.
But the bill blocks state and local governments from requiring such labeling.
“I’m worried about Berkeley and Vermont,” Pompeo said, to laughs from the farmers at the table.