Yesterday, a coalition of consumer, environmental, labor, farming, faith and business organizations took command of the steps on the steps of the Pennsylvania State Capitol. There, they announced the launch of a statewide campaign to pass legislation requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods in Pennsylvania.
The coalition announcement was led by State Senator Daylin Leach, co-sponsor of a bill that was introduced in the legislature this week with bipartisan support. "I've introduced this bill, not to ban genetically engineered foods, but to allow consumers to take control of which items they purchase. I believe it's every consumer's right to know what ingredients are found in the products they buy.
If passed, the legislation would be the first of its kind in the United States, contended Leach, a Montgomery County legislator. "The people of Pennsylvania should have a choice. The bill would take effect 18 months after passage. Manufacturers and distributors would have to affix labels on the products.
"We can find out how much fat and sodium are in our food, with a full list of ingredients and nutritional information on every box. But we aren't informed about the inclusion of ingredients that could be potentially detrimental to our health and wellness." However, when asked whether he considered GE foods unsafe, he replied: "I'm not prepared to address that question."
First step of coalition-building
Sam Bernhardt, a statewide organizer for Food & Water Watch, said more than 70 groups including farmers, food co-ops, the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture, and the Pennsylvania Association of Nurses supports the legislation. In coming months, the coalition plans to raise awareness and legislative support.
"As food production technology evolves, so should our food labeling. Consumers have a right to know which products on market shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients, just like their right to know calorie counts and salt content," noted Bernhardt. "Whole Foods just announced they would label GE foods by 2018. But we can set the safety bar higher by doing it here and now."
Brian Snyder, PASA'S executive director, said farmers are increasingly losing ownership of the seeds they grow. Many farmers are opting to use seeds and feed for animals that's not genetically altered.
"They deserve to get a benefit from the public," he said.
Farmers benefit from food system transparency, contended Snyder. "They want labels to reflect the truth about food."
For a look at the key issues of California's defeated Proposition 37 covered in last November's American Agriculturist, click on Biotech_showdown