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Genetically Engineered Foods Enter Kansas Congressional Primary

The debate over the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients has reached the 4th congressional district primary in Kansas. Now, outside money is flowing into the heated race.

Incumbent U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo introduced federal legislation in April that would keep states from requiring that bio-engineered foods be labeled as such.

Farm groups support the bill because the majority of the nation's corn and soybean crops are genetically engineered to resist insects and herbicides; the industry says foods containing them are safe.

However, Republican challenger Todd Tiahrt, a former congressman, has made Pompeo's bill a campaign issue in the race for the 4th District.

Tiahrt argues that Pompeo has sold out to big agricultural interests like Monsanto instead of being responsive to consumers who want to know what is in their food.

Now, a flood of outside money from political action committees is entering the debate just before the Aug. 5th Republican primary.

The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Food Policy Action will spend $40,000 for digital advertising supporting Tiahrt's candidacy on social media outlets, including Facebook.

DC-based Political Action Committee Every Voice Action has also begun airing television ads in Kansas this week supporting Tiahrt; it's placed orders totaling more than $98,500 in television advertising.

Meanwhile, the American Chemical Council reported in a regulatory filing on Monday that it was spending $165,200 for advertising supporting Pompeo. Its website says the advertising is meant to compliment Pompeo for his support of policies that the group says grow the economy and support jobs.

Tihart says Representative Pompeo's bill also contains "massive regulations" on the natural foods industry that keep them from even implying natural foods are safer than bioengineered foods.

Kansas farm groups say they do not oppose labeling for genetically engineered foods, but say they want any laws to be consistent across the country instead of a patchwork of state regulations.

When she's not out making lattes in her mobile coffee bus Sunflower Espresso, Kate Hutchens is a fill-in host for KMUW. She has worked in broadcast journalism at KFDI, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and at KMUW as Morning Edition host, which she did until March 2017.