Arizona Agriculture Says Get a Move on for GMOs!

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: In support of biotechnology in agriculture? Do you believe it is yet another tool in the toolbox for those farmers wanting to use it? Do you believe this seed technology is science-based and has merit for the abundance of healthy food we need to grow in the coming decades? Then you’ll want to “Get a Move On” and help Farm Bureau spread the good news about biotechnology in agriculture.

GetaMoveOn.fb.org is Farm Bureau’s just-launched advocacy website that gives farmers and ranchers a simple way to “Get a Move On” for GMOs. Through the website, farmers can easily express support for a national, science-based labeling standard, like the approach taken in the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599). 

“Now is the time for farmers and ranchers to take action in support of innovation in agriculture,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “Access to crop traits that resist pests, diseases and drought stress is helping farmers across the nation grow more food using less land, water, fuel and pesticides,” Stallman said. “Biotechnology will offer even more benefits in the future.”

From the website, farmers and ranchers can send House members emails encouraging “yea” votes for the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The bill will clarify the Food and Drug Administration as the nation’s foremost authority on food safety and create a voluntary labeling program run by the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the same agency that administers the USDA Organic Program. 

“Through this campaign, we’re able to stay engaged and participate in the process,” says Arizona Farm Bureau President Kevin Rogers. “I like that the website is designed to allow me to reach out to my congressional delegation and share about the technology we have been using for the past 20 years.”

The Arizona Farm Bureau leadership has already briefed each congressional office on the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act that would set up federal voluntary labeling of food containing GMOs. The bill is the result of the efforts of a large coalition of food retailers and processors along with many agricultural production groups to preempt states from passing a patchwork of labeling requirements. In the last election cycle, Arizona faced an initiative drive to place a label requirement on foods containing GMOs, but the initiative failed to make it on the ballot due to lack of signatures.

“It is vital for farmers and ranchers to engage,” says Arizona Farm Bureau First Vice President Stefanie Smallhouse.  “Right now we are letting others misinform the public about biotechnology and define the issue for us.  If we are the ones given the charge to feed, cloth, and conserve then we must defend our ability to do this responsibly, efficiently, and with the latest technology available to us. The website is a great tool to give you the information you need at your fingertips.”

The legislation will provide a federal solution to protect consumers from a confusing patchwork of 50-state GMO labeling policies, and the misinformation and high food costs that would come with them. 

Through GetaMoveOn.fb.org, farmers can not only connect with their lawmakers, but find state-by-state fact sheets detailing the value and share of GMO crops in each state. They can then share this information in their emails.

“It’s critical that we as farmers help our lawmakers understand that there’s a cost associated with discouraging agricultural innovation,” Stallman said. “That cost will go well beyond the higher prices consumers will pay at the supermarket if each state passes its own GMO labeling law,” he added. 

In addition to the advocacy site, Farm Bureau’s grassroots toolkit continues to be a helpful resource for farmers and ranchers who want to share the many positives about biotechnology with policymakers, community members and others. Accessible at fb.org/biotech, this free online resource includes an overview of biotechnology; an explanation of biotechnology’s benefits to consumers, the environment, farmers, the U.S. economy, and more; links to credible sources for biotech information; and avenues for getting active on social media. Arizona Farm Bureau also provides a link to information on biotechnology in Agriculture.

A strong consumer-focused resource is GMOAnswers.com, which allows people to ask any and all questions about GMOs. Responses come from independent experts in leading academic institutions, industry groups and representatives from Biotechnology Industry Organization member companies. The website also features studies, articles and safety data. 

In addition, another science-based website attempting to help the public understand the science behind biotechnology better is Genetic Literacy Project. Themed, Where Science Trumps Ideology, a variety of science experts share insights into biotechnology and other issues. 

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