So far, 2012 looks like a good year for the US to join the rest of the world in fair and accurate GMO labeling. Connecticut joins the ranks of states considering mandatory GM food labels this year, with a bill called HB 5117.
The proposed legislation would require labels on food sold in Connecticut containing any amount of genetically engineered ingredients. Connecticut House Rep. Richard Roy, Chair of the Environment Committee, has expressed support for the bill.
At a recent press conference Rep. Roy stated, “I feel the federal government has turned its back on consumers and is more interested in helping the agriculture industry hide what is actually going into our food.”
Roy and other legislators supporting HB 5117 argue that consumers have the right to know what they’re buying and eating.
Vice Chair of the Environment Committee Rep. Phil Miller explains, “When we buy packaged foods, we can read the label and make an informed decision if we want to buy that product — so why shouldn’t parents know if fruit contains genetically modified ingredients?”
House Rep Diana Urban supports GM labeling as a consumer choice issue. “Markets work the best when a consumer has as much information as possible,” she says. “I think that requiring labeling is really a very positive step for making the market as efficient and effective as possible.”
Proponents also point out that there are no long term studies on the safety of GMO consumption, and that genetically engineered ingredients have been banned in five EU countries due to health and environmental concerns.
Advocates of HB 5117 hope to see Connecticut become a national model for GM labeling legislation. Other initiatives are pending in at least 18 states, including Vermont, Washington, and California.
Public demand for GMO labeling is growing by leaps and bounds, described by one article as follows:
Late last fall, about 500 groups, including some of the country’s biggest consumer organizations, banded together as the Just Label It campaign. Also last fall, the Washington-based Center for Food Safety filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, calling for the agency to require labels. As of this week, the petition had 850,000 signatures of support, the most ever for a federal food petition.
“Fifty countries have mandatory labeling. We’re one of the only developed countries that doesn’t. GMOs are labeled in China, Russia. Why would consumers in those countries have this information and we not have it here?” said Megan Westgate, executive director of the the Non-GMO Project, a group that verifies and labels products as free of genetically altered ingredients. “It feels like we’re at this tipping point where a lot more Americans are concerned about this.”
There are many reasons to label foods containing GM ingredients. The biotechnology industry offers only one argument against it: they will make more money if consumers are kept in the dark.
Like the ag-gag legislation making the legislative rounds recently, some specific corporate lobbies seem very interested in kneeling on the windpipe of consumer awareness. But GMO labeling in the US is clearly gaining momentum, because consumers already know it’s a problem.
Sorry, Monsanto: that’s one tough genie to stuff back in the lamp.
Image credit: Creative Commons photo by MillionsAgainstMonsanto.