Democratic members of Congress, with the support of natural food company officials, last month called for passage of legislation that would require labels disclosing the use of genetically modified ingredients in food.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, who introduced the proposal in March, said House leaders should act after a poll showed 88 percent of Americans supported a GMO labeling requirement. The press conference included three of DeFazio's fellow House Democrats and Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
“We should be proud to tell consumers about what they are eating,” Greenfield said, according to The Hill. “We should be screaming it from the rooftops what our ingredients are.”
In addition to Ben & Jerry's, officials from Bare Naked Granola, Evol Foods, French Broad Food Co-Op, Popcorn Indiana and Stonyfield Farm also lobbied Congress on the legislation last month.
The companies also criticized a proposal from House Republicans that would create a voluntary non-GMO label and pre-empt state labeling requirements.
Proponents of labeling requirements characterize the issue as a matter of informing consumers, while others argue GMO crops could cause problems for both human health and environment.
Critics counter that the labeling requirements would penalize perfectly safe crops and impose burdensome costs on food companies. GMOs already account for the vast majority of the nation's corn and soybean crops.
DeFazio, however, rejected the latter argument since companies frequently change their labels. He noted that agribusiness giant Monsanto and others spent far more than the costs to comply in an effort to defeat a labeling requirement in his native Oregon.
“Monsanto doesn’t get to vote," DeFazio said. "They might give them more money, but if they hear from a lot more people who are saying this is important to me in the next election, we’ll get Republicans and Democrats and we’ll get it done.”