Should Pennsylvania Enforce GMO Food Labeling?

Back in December, I undertook the Food Stamp Challenge alongside my PW colleague, Sheena Lester, and we both learned something too obvious: Much of the cheap food we were able to afford on $35 per week not only isn’t healthy, but is genetically engineered — or, as it’s often been dubbed, “Frankenfood.”

The nonprofit Center for Food Safety cites studies that GE food may increase risks of “toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer,” and according to the group’s shopper’s guide, most generic food brands contain genetically-modified organisms. That’s why liberal Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) wants to make us all aware of what we’re eating. He’s announced plans to introduce a bill that would require state grocery stores to label genetically-engineered foods. According to a memo regarding such a potential bill:

We have a right to know how much fat and sodium are in our food, and a full list of ingredients is on every box, but due to the influence of biotech companies like Monsanto, we don’t know if the foods we are eating are genetically engineered (GE)…

Inadequate testing of these crops has left many consumers concerned about the safety of these foods. GE foods have not been tested for long-term impacts on human and environmental health safety and GE crops usually use more pesticides and herbicides than non-GE crops. Superweeds and pests have become resistant to GE-affiliated herbicides and pesticides, and this requires many more toxic chemicals to be applied to crops.

Since genetically engineered food was introduced in 1996, it’s become a mainstay of virtually all grocery stores across the United States, and its long-term effects aren’t really known. But Leach, and several other legislators across the U.S., aren’t taking any chances. There have been efforts to alert the public to GMOs, despite the food industry’s best efforts: In late February, Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D) announced a federal bill in the House that would mandate GMO labeling in all 50 states. Meanwhile, Whole Foods has said it may enforce a rule to label products in its stores with or without federal legislation.

UPDATE: Yep, it’s been introduced as a full blown bill.

7 Responses to “ Should Pennsylvania Enforce GMO Food Labeling? ”

  1. [...] Angeles TimesWhole Foods to label all genetically modified foodsMarketplace.orgMPBN News -PW-Philadelphia Weekly (blog)all 133 news [...]

  2. Jon McGoran says:

    The answer, of course, is, “Yes it is time!” The bill has now been officially introduced, with at least 11 cosponsors, as of yesterday morning. It’s very exciting that Pennsylvania is one of the states at the forefront of this fight.

  3. GH says:

    There is no reason to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. The claims of their danger and lack of testing are patently false as any review of the published science will demonstrate, and there is no scientific reason to single genetic engineering out among all the other attributes of food that could be labeled but are not due to being irrelevant to the final product. The push for mandatory labeling of GE crops is by and large little more than an attempt to scare people. Genetic engineering is safe and beneficial, and there is neither moral nor scientific justification to force labeling.

  4. KS says:

    The reason is to label is about the transparency of the label. Many people have many reason for a label, it could be their health, their religion, their environment beliefs, their food justice issues, their science beliefs, mostly it’s about their belief on how they want to spend their dollar. GH you don’t need a reason, that is fine and you can go ahead and spend your dollar Genetically Engineered food. The labeling in fact will help you. You now will have a clearer way to ID those foods. So I’m confused I would think you would be in support.

    Science is about asking a question and having it answered. Nothing has been studied on a micro level throught this 15 plus years process and no independent long term studies have been done. We just don’t know why, but we do know diabetes, cancers, gut related aliments, depression, autism and a host of other issue are problems. For goodness sack, our DNA end up in our hair from what we eat and people don’t think what we eat doesn’t end up in other DNA In our system. Are we not what we eat? I would like the transparency that labeling will provide.

    A good read “Organic Manifesto” written by Pennsylvania’s own Maria Rodale.

  5. GH says:

    If this label was truly about transparency, why are you only advocating a single aspect of crop improvement be singled out, and do you also support giving complete information about it? For example, I don’t see mandatory labeling requirements for variety name, or if something was produced via grafting, tissue culture, embryo rescue, hybridization, chemically induced polyploidy, radiation induced mutagenesis, sport selection, ect. If you are supporting transparency, why single out only one things? Furthermore, if you insist on singling out only one, thing, why not leave it voluntary? Plenty of people want to know if their food is Kosher or Halal or vegan, so these people check the labels and, if ingredients are suspect, buy voluntarily labeled items. In the case of GE ingredients, we already have organic labels and non-GMO labels like the Non-GMO Project certification. As for complete information, maybe I want to know the mycotoxins in my corn, and as it so happens, non-GE corn has been shown to have more. Maybe I want to know if the soybeans in a crop were not contributing to no-till practices, an environmentally friendly method of weed control that GE soy helps promote. If you are for transparency, why no labels for non-GE crops for those things?

    Furthermore, how in the world would labeling something as GE be in any way informative? OK, you say something is changed….well that doesn’t tell me much does it? you’re going to have to label what was changed and give some actual information on it for it to be in any way meaningful. And to do that for only GE crops is to ignore illogically ignore every other gene. for example, I say some Khaa Deng rice the other day. Did it have the rice sd-1 gene? I don’t know. Or what about the raspberry product I bought…did those raspberries have the A10 gene? If you support transparency, why are you singling out only one aspect of food production instead of promoting wider knowledge?

    Also, labeling will not help me one bit because I already know what is and is not GE. I know what genes are used, how they work, and why they are used. Corn, soy, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beet, summer squash, and papaya are the only crops currently used that are GE. This makes your push look even less rational. When I buy product with corn in it, I know it likely has cry proteins like Cry1Ab, C4 EPSPS, and perhaps cspB. If I want to avoid that, I avoid the listed crops or buy organic/non-GMO, alternatives already provided without forcing a label. So, if you educate yourself, you do not need a special labeling scheme. Also, worth mentioning is that with a little research you can know the genes inserted in GE crops. Can you say the same of all the non-GE alterations? Strange that you single out the topic that is easier to get information on but is more politically controversial.

    What you say about studies is completely false, and the mentioning of ailments pointless. There has been loads of research & review around the world, both in universities and by government bodies such as the USDA, FDA, European Food Safety Authority, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Health Canada, Haut Conseil des biotechnologies, ect. The World Health Organization, National Academies Press, and American Association for the Advancement of Science have all taken stances in support of the safety of GE crops. Which brings me to another point: as they are safe, the status of an item as GE or not is unrelated to the end nutritional properties of the product. Don’t try and act as if the variety of a plant is the same as nutritional information such as calories, ect. Now, you might want to know anyway, and good for you, but that’s what the free market is for. Plenty of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, vegans, ect. also have dietary restrictions, however, they do not require a specific regulation catering to them. For example, there is no requirement that conventionally slaughtered beef be labeled as Haram, even though some people might want to know that. This is because regulation is and should be based on needs, not wants or individual beliefs. Also, as I’ve previously stated, you already have the free market alternatives.

    So, this raises the question: why do you really push for this label? Your scientific reasons are flawed to put it politely, you already have non-GE options, and your personal curiosity does not merit new regulation, so why? Furthermore, by singling out genetic engineering, you are misleading people by making it seem as if it is something that does indeed merit being singled out. If, for instance, you labeled some foods as being grown in radiation of a wavelength of 400-700 nm, do you think people would still want to buy that product? Of course not, radiation is bad right? Well, if you know anything about physics you’ll know that 400-700 nm is the spectrum of viable light and is nothing to be worried about, but if you labeled it, you know darned well it would scare people (you know that high exposure to certain viable light has been associated with skin cancer!), and forcing labeling of GE status without fully education people on the safety and benefits of genetic engineering (which is something you are misinforming people about, so no wonder they would be edgy about it) is no different. So, why do it? I note your site does not say GMO Informed Pa but GMO FREE Pa. Why is that? You could promote education so that people who want to know can, like myself, have the tools to identify GE ingredients on their own. You could promote non-GE alternatives like organic or Non-GMO Project certified. But instead you want to force this on food producers. Is this GMO Free Pennsylvania’s attempt to start by scaring people and end by legislating away the choice of farmers to choose what they want to grow? Because that’s how it looks to me.

    And one more ‘minor’ little issue…how do you think this will impact costs? You you honestly think the food producers across the country and indeed around the world are just going to track their product lines and specially label anything headed to Pennsylvania out of the goodness of their hearts? Prop 37 in California was expected to raise food costs…how is this any different? I just bought some ramen made in Japan the other day…do you foresee any problems getting the entire world up to speed on Pennsylvanian laws?

    In short, I think people should be free to make their own choices. You want to label, go ahead and do it. You don’t, then don’t. You want to avoid GE crops or seek them out? I just told you how, have at it. But your beliefs are your own responsibility, not anyone else’s. You, like the Prop 37 promoters before you, have demonstrated neither moral nor scientific justification for mandating labeling of GE crops, and I feel that just the opposite is true, as this labeling would do little more than unjustly mislead, so I will do what I can in my state to stand against unreasonable unscientific anti-free market regulation.

    Want a good read? I suggest Mendel in the Kitchen by Nina Fedoroff, one of Penn State’s most well respected scientists.

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