Potential Bill Demands Labeling of GMO Foods

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, a representative of Dutchess and Ulster County, addressed a bill that would mandate the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on Thursday, March 3 in Kingston.

Marissa Bramlett of Food and Water Watch, Amy Little of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) and Liana Hoodes of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) joined Cahill in Kingston for the press conference. Together, they discussed the growing coalition of businesses across the Hudson Valley that have come out in support of the GMO labeling bill.

“More than 60 countries throughout the world have recognized the importance of labeling genetically modified foods,” Cahill said in a press release issued on March 1. “New Yorkers have the right to choose what they’re willing to pay for and consume, especially with something as vital as their food supply. This is about making informed decisions – those that impact our overall health and well-being.”

The the summary of the bill (A-617) states that its mission is to “provide for the labeling of raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, seed and seed stock produced with genetic engineering; defines terms; imposes penalties for false labels and misbranding.”

According to an ABC News poll, an overwhelming 90 percent of Americans believe that mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs is necessary.

Although Americans have finally reached an unprecedented level of agreement on the issue, passing legislation regarding the labeling of foods containing GMOs remains incredibly problematic, according to Cahill.

Large biotech companies such as Monsanto and Dow have pumped millions into blocking GMO labeling legislation like bill 617. It is the fear of companies such as these that Americans will stop buying genetically engineered products if they know what they are eating.

According to supporters of bill 617, biotech companies want to continue keeping consumers in the dark in regards to what they are eating and providing for their families. Supporters say that these companies do not want consumers to have the ability to make informed decisions about their food because that would mean fewer profits for them.

There have not been any studies done on the long-term health effects of eating genetically modified food, therefore the majority of consumers simply do not know what GMOs could be doing to their health.

“We’re not talking about banning anything, or changing what you buy at the grocery store – unless you want to,” Cahill said in a Mid Hudson News article. “I see no harm whatsoever in creating an opportunity for shoppers to know exactly what it is that they are buying, and then decide if it’s something they want. We don’t have to argue the science; other people can do that.”

According to Food Safety News, bill 617 will not ban the sale of foods containing GMOs, and if it passes, 80 percent of processed foods in the country will still contain GMOs. The  difference that will be made, however, is that New Yorkers would no longer be kept dining in the dark, and they would have the right to choose to eat or to not eat genetically engineered products, according to opensecrets.org. 

Supporters say that mandated labeling of foods containing GMOs is just the first step towards a more fair and transparent food system in America. Biotech companies are lobbying federal government officials to pass legislation prohibiting state-enacted mandatory labeling laws. The bill is still in legislative session and has not yet been voted on.