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editorial

We say, ‘label it’


June 12, 2013

Last week, Connecticut’s legislature did the right thing when it passed a bill (the vote was 134 to 3) requiring food manufacturers to label products that contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy indicated he would sign the bill into law, making Connecticut the first state in the nation to pass such broad legislation.

During the very same week, as Connecticut lawmakers did the right thing, the New York State Assembly Committee on Consumer Protection and Affairs did the wrong thing by killing a proposed Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) labeling bill (A3525). The New York Times reported the story this way: “The New York labeling bill was defeated in committee after members, including several who were co-sponsors of the legislation, were lobbied intensely by a representative from the Council for Biotechnology Information, a trade group whose members are BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroScience, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta—all major makers of genetically modified seeds and pesticides that work with them.”

As we see it, there are two issues here. The first one has to do with choice and whether consumers are entitled to the information they want and need in order to choose what food they eat. To us, this sounds like a pretty fundamental right.

The second issue has to do with how lawmakers conduct the public’s business. In a recent public opinion poll, a vast majority of Americans (82%) said they wanted GMO food to be labeled (www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/04/gmo-poll_n_2807595.html). Yet, bowing to corporate influence appears to have become so routine that it’s merely business as usual in our legislative bodies and statehouses, despite the people’s wishes. And because money bestows power these days, voting is vulnerable, too, as was seen in California’s 2012 ballot initiative when Big Biotech spent $40 million to defeat a GMO labeling measure.

Let’s be clear; Big Biotech and Big Ag have a big stake in building a GMO future. Biotech crops comprise the fastest growing segment in agriculture today. More than 88% of corn and soy planted in the U.S. is genetically modified. GMO corn, canola and soybeans are ubiquitous in processed food because they are such fundamental ingredients. (Animal feed also contains these GMO ingredients allowing them into our food supply that way.)