(February 28, 2013 – St. Paul, MN) Minnesota has become the 20th state this year to consider mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods, also known as genetically modified organisms, with the introduction of bills in the Minnesota House and Senate.
The legislation (H.F. 850 and S.F. 821) would require that the packaging on foods containing genetically engineered ingredients display the words, “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”
The GMO labeling issue took the national spotlight last fall when a California labeling measure known as Proposition 37 spurred a $50 million opposition campaign by the biotechnology, pesticide, and processed food industries.
The defeat of Proposition 37 helped coalesce citizen-led campaigns in more than 35 states.
“It’s such a basic right, the right to know what’s in the food you’re eating,” says Representative Karen Clark, who introduced the bill in the House. “This legislation is really a very moderate step. It doesn’t ban genetically modified ingredients. It just lets consumers know about them so they can make their own choices.”
Genetic modification alters a plant or animal’s DNA by adding genes from other species to produce insecticidal properties, resistance to agrichemicals, or other traits.
With the rapid adoption of this technology over the past 15 years, genetically modified ingredients are now present in 75 to 80 percent of conventional processed foods, mostly corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets.
But farmers, health advocates, and others are raising concerns about the human and environmental costs of GMOs.
Labeling advocates point to animal studies that link consumption of GMOs to a host of health hazards, including allergies, organ disruption, cancers, infertility, and more.
Environmental concerns include widespread pest and weed resistance, which has led to increased application of agrichemicals.
Farmers’ concerns include prohibitions against seed saving, lawsuits against farmers whose fields are subject to GMO contamination, and restricted availability of non-GMO seeds.
“The U.S. is behind on protecting our health and our land from the risks tied to this technology,” says Nancy Brown of Right to Know Minnesota, a citizen-led group organizing to support the labeling effort.
“Other nations are banning the import and cultivation of GMOs. The least we can do is require disclosure of these ingredients on food packaging, as more than 60 other nations already do.”
Public support for GMO labeling in the U.S. is high, consistently topping 90 percent.
“Public support for the disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients is nearly unanimous,” says Brown.
“People are shocked to find out that they’re eating these foods every day without their knowledge or consent. This measure simply gives Minnesotans the information they want and need to make informed choices at the grocery store.”