Fight on GMO labeling continues

Thursday May 30, 2013

A week after the U.S. Senate defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders’ farm-bill amendment -- which would have allowed states to require labeling on foods that are produced with or derived from organisms that have been genetically engineered -- he took to CNN to say the fight is far from over.

"I have not the slightest doubt that the momentum is with us," Sanders told CNN on Tuesday. "There are about 27 states in this country that are moving forward on the labeling of GMO food."

Sanders’ effort at the federal level would have prevented so-called food giants from suing states that passed such measures.

"Vermont and other states must be allowed to label GMO foods," Sanders told the Reformer last week. "My provision would protect states from threatened lawsuits."

During his appearance on CNN, Sanders said he didn’t want to see states like Vermont "sued in a multimillion-dollar suit by a very powerful, wealthy corporation who says, ‘Well, you don’t have the right to do it.’ It is a federal prerogative."

"So all that my legislation said is that if Vermont wants to go forward, if Connecticut wants to go forward, California wants to go forward, dozens of other states want to go forward, Monsanto and these other large corporations cannot sue them on the grounds that they don’t have the right label," Sanders said.

According to Yahoo Finance, and reported by the Huffington Post, "’Sixty-four countries around the world, including Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Russia and European Union member states, have significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs.’ Yet in the U.S., there’s fiery controversy about whether these frankenfoods should even be labeled, so consumers can tell what they’re eating."

One of those "food giants" -- Monsanto -- has argued that requiring such GMO labels would harm sales as it would give consumers the idea that genetically modified foods have negative health effects.

Consider this tidbit from The Village Voice: "The New York Times has already made up its mind about GMO labeling requirements -- in March, the paper’s editorial board argued that there was little proof of the risk GMOs could pose to human health, and therefore little reason for compulsory labeling."

Well, that’s not really the point though, is it? Regardless of what your views are on genetically modified foods, this isn’t an argument on what’s right or wrong for your body. This is about educating consumers so they can make their own decisions. Just as we label cigarettes or alcohol products today. If, down the road, a certain (most likely, possible) risk is discovered, people can make the choice on whether they’re willing to take that risk. But at least they’ll be aware.

"Essentially, what that Monsanto Protection Act rider said is that even if a court were to determine that a particular product might be harmful to human beings or harmful to the environment, the Department of Agriculture could not stop the production of that product once it is in the ground." Sanders told CNN. "So you have deregulated the GMO industry from court oversight, which is really not what America is about."

While Sanders noted that the rider would expire in September, he also vowed to make sure it would not find its way back into U.S. law, the Daily News reports.

So as the fight for education continues, we echo the sentiment of New York Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, who told the The Village Voice: "This is an issue of primary concern to so many people. Labeling doesn’t convey an attitude -- it’s just a statement of fact."

After all, if there’s nothing to hide, why all the concern?


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