DENVER—U.S. Rep. Jared Polis warned his constituents Wednesday that getting a federal law passed to require the labeling of genetically modified foods would be “a really tough fight.”
A day later, it became evident that getting the same kind of legislation passed at the state level will require a really tough fight, too.
After five hours of testimony, the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee in Denver voted 7-2 against a bill Colorado Rep. Jeanne Labuda, D-Denver, introduced calling for the labeling of genetically engineered food.
Despite testimony from concerned consumers, parents and health advocates, the committee's majority sided with industry representatives who said a state genetically modified organism (GMO) law would unfairly burden farmers and agricultural businesses, which will then shift costs to consumers.
Supporters of the proposed bill included New Belgium Brewery, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Food & Water Watch, Moveon.org Boulder and Denver Council, Grow Local Colorado, Feed Denver, Be Local Northern Colorado, Durango Natural Foods, Mo’ Betta Greens MarketPlace, Waste Farmers, Compost Auraria, The Collective for Social Change, Sazza Restaurant, The Garden Restaurant, and more.
Crops genetically engineered to tolerate herbicides and repel insects first became commercially available in the United States in 1996. Now genetically engineered crops constitute the vast majority of corn, cotton and soybeans grown in the country. Some independent, peer-reviewed research suggests that GMOs can deteriorate liver and kidney functions and impair embryonic development. But the American Association for the Advancement of Science has defended the crops' safety, saying labeling would "mislead and falsely alarm consumers." The Food and Drug Administration does not track adverse health effects in people consuming GMOs and without labeling, consumers often do not know when they are eating them.
Some food companies voluntarily advertise that their products don't contain ingredients with compromised DNA via verification from the Non-GMO Project.
More than 50 countries around the world — including Australia, Japan and all of the ones in Europe — either significantly restrict or outright ban the production and sale of GMOs.
Congressman Polis is joining forces with Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to try to get GMO labeling in the United States. At a recent press conference at Alfalfa's Market in Boulder, Polis said the legislation "is not about the health or environmental impacts of GMOs, which are important discussions, but rather it's about consumer freedom and choice." An added benefit of the bill is that U.S. food producers could export to foreign markets that require GMO labeling, he said.
Several of the juggernauts in the food and beverage industry — namely DuPont, Monsanto and Pepsi — have spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying against GMO labeling.
There are more than 20 bills targeting GMOs under consideration across the country.
Polls show that most Americans support the labeling of genetically engineered food.