Congresswoman Answers Questions on GMOs, Social Security

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, D-1st Dist., toured the MegaFoods plant at 11 Delta Drive on Monday, as Chief Executive Officer Robert Craven discussed with the Congresswoman how food comes from the farm and is turned into vitamin tablets. Craven said the facility has 165 employees and has been in business for 40 years.

“We have 130 products that come straight from the farm and have no Genetically Manufactured Organisms (GMO) in them. The vegetables that we have in our products are tested in the lab to establish vitamin content and quality, and the vegetables are then sent to be dried and put into powdered form and then capsulated,” explained vice president of Research and Development Rich Lafond.

“We go all the way back to the farmers. Some operations distribute the processes out and only make the finished product, but we handle it all from farmer to finished product,” Craven said. After the tour, Shea-Porter held a town hall style question and answer discussion in the company’s cafeteria with several employees.

One employee asked Shea-Porter about Medicare and Social Security, and she responded that Social Security had been put into place during the Depression so people would not be “put out on the curb,” and said it would be solvent for “30 to 32 years out, if we raise the cap.” That drew relieved comments from the audience.

Shea-Porter said anyone making less than $112,000 per year pays Social Security tax on every dollar earned. If that cap were raised, which she thinks it should be, there would be a solution to the funding problem.
“Why shouldn’t everyone pay on every dollar,” Shea-Porter said. Regarding Medicare, Shea-Porter said the United States has the healthiest elder population in history because of that program.

“My father hated it when it came into effect and said many times in his later years how important it was to him,” Shea-Porter said. She also said that if anyone knew of waste or fraud in the system or by anyone involved, it should be reported. “We don’t want anyone ripping the taxpayers off,” Shea-Porter said.
Employee Scott Dugal asked Shea-Porter about pending legislation regarding GMO and non-GMO labeling of food.

“Yes, we want legislation that will allow labeling of products that have been genetically altered,” she said. “Tell us what is in our food. We want choice. I was telling (Craven) that we should have the choice of what we buy. If we are at a dairy cooler with a soft drink or orange juice and we choose the orange juice, that is our choice and we want that choice with the food that we buy. We are working on that. We feel that the consumers have a right to know what is in their food.”

The final question came from Craven’s executive assistant, who asked about college debt. Shea-Porter said she had spoken with a soldier in his 40s, who was asking about the same thing, and who noted how hard it was on his daughter. He was still working to pay off his own college debt. “I think this will crush us if we don’t deal with it,” Shea-Porter said. “It is leaving the middle class behind and keeping others from entering the middle class. It is too great a burden. We have to deal with the costs and provide more support for people.

If we put this burden on people who can’t afford to send their children to college, we not only hurt their children by denying them a college education but we hurt our society by not having the education available. “An educated society is our key to prosperity,” Shea-Porter concluded.

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