State and federal proposals to mandate the labeling of food products containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) is a searing-hot issue today.
On May 8, Vermont became the first state to adopt mandatory GMO product labeling as Governor Peter Shumlin signed the legislature-passed bill into law. It’s sort of ironic that the State of Vermont’s official slogan is “Vermont, naturally.” The law takes effect in July 2016.
GMO food labeling is on the legislative table in many states, including Arizona. Over the last two legislative sessions, state Senator Ed Ableser, a Democrat, sponsored GMO labeling bills.
In the first session (2013), the senator’s bill advocated mandatory labeling language. The second time around (this spring), Senator Ableser changed the language to voluntary GMO labeling.
Neither bill ever received a legislative hearing. While the senator garnered some support, even from some Republicans, the measures died on the table.
Arizona agricultural lobbyist Robert Shuler notes the growing trend for lawmakers to cross the aisle on the GMO labeling issue.
“This issue cuts across both parties,” Shuler says. “It is not clearly 'only Democrats' support it and 'only Republicans' oppose it. It’s become a tricky issue.”
And to further that viewpoint, an Arizona pest control advisor recently contacted his legislator to ascertain their position on GMO product labeling. The legislator voiced their support for a mandatory state labeling law. The PCA was surprised since the lawmaker was a Republican.
While the legislative route has failed in Arizona so far, Shuler says the issue could appear on this fall’s Arizona General Election ballot; that is if supporters gain enough legal signatures (170,000) by the deadline. If the issue makes the ballot, Shuler says it could stand a better chance of passage than the legislative route.
Early polling suggests a majority of voters believe mandatory GE labeling should be required on food containers.
Shuler says the agriculture and biotechnology communities are opposed to GMO labeling. Instead, they believe labeling should be a marketplace-driven decision.
Personally, I believe proposed mandatory food labeling is a desperate attempt by liberal environmentalists to pitch this issue as a human-health concern. In reality, I think it is a way to further promote anti-agriculture, anti-meat, pro-vegan agendas.
To my knowledge, not a single person has been physically harmed in anyway by GE foods. The many positives of modified foods – maintaining a person’s eyesight in less-developed counties through ‘golden rice’ consumption and improved diabetes control provided by GMO-improved foods - far outweigh the scare tactics.
Voters and lawmakers should vote on the facts instead of allowing activists to wrongly tug on their heartstrings.
People should follow the lead of California voters who two years ago failed to pass mandatory state GMO food labeling in Proposition 37. While pre-election polling found 90-plus percent support for mandatory GMO labeling, voters voted down the measure by a narrow margin.
Today, renewed efforts are underway to pass mandatory labeling in the Golden State.
A good resource of GMO information, including frequently asked questions, is available online.