This Week’s Headlines
Another state makes GMO stance (Editorial)
(May 27, 2014) — The GMO blitz continues.
The food and agriculture industry is focused on Vermont where Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a first-in-the-nation law requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association was poised to file suit against the state shortly after the measure became law arguing the First Amendment protects the free speech of commercial enterprises as well as individuals.
Similar to previous proposed bills throughout the country, including Maryland, the Vermont law will require labels on all processed foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.
Here’s the situation nationally.
Efforts to require GMO labeling have emerged primarily in the states along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts with very little being heard from the Midwest.
Labeling laws have been signed by governors in Maine, Connecticut as well as Vermont.
Labeling initiatives narrowly fell in California and Washington in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
In total, 31 states are considering, have considered or have adopted significant labeling requirements.
But the Midwest has yet to see a vote in a state legislature.
In 2013, labeling bills in the Midwest were either pulled back or never made it out of committee. Such measures were introduced unsuccessfully in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota.
Why? That’s where th big GMO crops — corn and soybeans — are grown.
Bob Olson from Cooperative Development Services in St. Paul, Minn., confirms that notion.
“I suspect that the Midwest’s perspective differs because we are a hotbed for GMO corn and soybean production,” Olson said. “Subsequently, we have a large industry and traditional agriculture lobby that thinks labeling is costly and unnecessary.”
Midwestern farmers have driven up the number of acres where such crops grow ever since they were introduced, and GM crops currently dominate the fields, especially corn and soybean fields.
In Midwestern states, biotech varieties of corn and soybeans made up more than 90 percent of the 135 million acres of corn and soybeans harvested in 2013, according to a USDA report on crop production.
Jordan Dux, director of national affairs at the Nebraska Farm Bureau, framed the argument for oopposition to mandatory GMO labeling. “A label could make the general public automatically think a product is unsafe.”
Dux also believes that mandatory labeling would increase costs by producers and manufactures having to track and segregate seeds and products.
Dux said these increased costs would eventually be felt by the consumer and could raise an annual grocery bill by as much as $400, based on industry-sponsored studies.
The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food was formed in February to urge Congress to create a federal labeling standard.
The coalition contends that a federal solution for labeling GM foods would avoid a 50-state patchwork of GM labeling laws that would increase costs for farmers and consumer,
However, and to no one’s surprise, the Center for Food Safety, which has been pushing labeling legislation in states, opposes the federal bill.
“These companies have failed to win over consumers who overwhelmingly support the mandatory labeling of GMOs, and now they’re trying to steal away consumer choice in Congress,” Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell said.
Is GMO labeling inevitable? Perhaps in today’s culture.
And if that’s the case, there’s no question it should establish national standards, one size fits all, rather than a potpourri of state requirements.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, apparently convinced that national legislation is needed — and fast — is backing a bill introduced by Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo and Rep. G.K. Butterfield, that would pre-empt states from passing their own labeling measures.
Pompeo’s Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, introduced April 9 in the House, would also make it mandatory to notify the FDA before bringing a new modified seed to market, a practice already happening on a voluntary basis.
As part of the voluntary labeling standard, the act also creates a maximum permissible level of GMO presence in foods bearing a GMO-free label.
OK, so what’s next?
We sincerely doubt consumers “overwhelmingly support mandatory labeling” or that they are aware of the impact such labeling will have on the food industry and on their bill at the checkout counter.
You can b sure there wil be a price to be paid for that “GMO” label on that box of corn flakes.