The House Agriculture Committee wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve genetically modified corn for California, as the drought situation worsens.
The Senate has passed a bill to provide $3.5 billion in drought relief for the drought-hit state, and the House bill is expected to be debated Wednesday by the full House and Senate.
“We need to get the ball rolling on a bipartisan basis,” Rep. Dan Boren, R-Okla., who has sponsored several bills in the past to approve GE crops, told The Hill.
Boren and other members of Congress have been pressing the Agriculture Department to approve the corn.
Last month, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) $1.9 billion corn plan, but it has not yet been sent to the Senate.
Rep. John Carter, R, Idaho, said the drought is forcing many Americans to turn to GE crops in order to stay warm.
“When it gets really hot, the corn gets in there,” he said.
“So if you can’t afford corn, you are going to want to go to GE.”
But Carter and other lawmakers also said they would not support the bill if it provided subsidies for genetically modified seeds, or GMOs.
“The problem with the bill is it would give them subsidies that they can’t actually get because they’re not selling those products,” Carter said.
In recent months, the USDA has received more than 200 reports of people in California experiencing heat-related illnesses, including heat-induced skin rashes, asthma attacks and severe dehydration.
A report released earlier this year found that California had seen an increase in heat-associated illnesses since the start of the drought.
“In the last month alone, we’ve seen heat- related illnesses in excess of 3,000 people in our state, most of them elderly and people with underlying medical conditions,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a news conference.
The report also noted that more than 2,000 cases of heat-caused illness were reported in the United States last year.