Citizen-led efforts in 23 states aim to label genetically modified foods
(October 16, 2012) After 19 state legislatures last year considered bills to label genetically modified foods, the grassroots campaign in 23 states have formed The Coalition of States for Mandatory GMO Labeling (The Coalition) to coordinate efforts that will require the labeling of genetically modified foods in the USA and to support Prop 37, the California ballot initiative that could mandate GMO labeling in California on election day.
Earlier this year the FDA dismissed a petition signed by over one million people calling for GMO labeling, thereby making it clear that “citizens will have to fight for their right to know one state at a time”, stated Nancy Doyle Brown of Right to Know Minnesota, a coalition mobilizing support for GMO labeling in Minnesota.
Pamm Larry, the initial instigator of CA Prop 37 and Northern California Director of Labelgmos.org, stated that, “This Coalition proves that all Americans are concerned about GMOs in our food, not just one state. We, as a nation, want labeling NOW and this coalition is in support of Prop 37 because how goes California goes the nation.”
Genetic modification (also known as genetic engineering) is the process of inserting genes from one species into another (for example, bacteria genes into corn). Unlike cross breeding, genetic engineering breaches the natural barriers between species and the process used to create genetically engineered seeds creates unintended consequences that have yet to be proven safe by the FDA or the United States Government.
With the rise of genetically engineered soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets, it is estimated that over 80% of processed foods on our supermarket shelves now contain genetically engineered ingredients. To that end, consumer choice is important now more than ever. Zofia Hausman, a British film maker who has traveled extensively throughout the US for a documentary about GMOs, has observed the change in perspectives: “The American consumer has woken up in the last few years and feels unnerved by the smokescreen surrounding our food supply. The demand for transparency is peaking and I would say that the coalition is a reflection of this. It’s about self-awareness, personal responsibility and choice.”
Over 50 countries throughout the world already mandate GMO labeling, leaving the United States as one of the only industrialized countries in the world that does not mandate GMO labeling. Those who advocate for labeling say this is simply about our fundamental right to know what is in our food and that whether GMOs are safe for human consumption or not is irrelevant when considering whether to label GMOs.
Tara Cook-Littman, the leader of GMO Free CT, the organization that advocated for GMO labeling during the 2012 legislative session and plans to continue its efforts in 2013 stated that, “It is unacceptable that as a mother of three young children, I do not have the right as a citizen of the United States to choose whether or not to feed my family GMOs. The time for Americans to be in the dark about what they are eating is over. The Coalition will not rest until every person in this country can make decisions for themselves as to whether they want to consume GMOs or not.”
No state has passed a labeling bill yet, but advocates are hopeful that the majority of Californians will vote in favor of Prop 37 in November and pave the way for other states to follow. An industry-backed opposition campaign has spent more than $34 million on efforts to dampen public support for the measure and is currently flooding the airwaves with misleading and false ads.
Coalition states include: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
Send inquiries to GMOLablelingStateCoalition@gmail.com.