16 June 2013 - State GMO Laws Just Won’t Work

By now, most of you are aware that I am opposed to State laws requiring GMO labeling of food. On the other hand I am a realist and I’m afraid I am going to lose the battle because there is more GMO legislative activity being introduced all the time.

There are 37 ‘labeling’ proposals being introduced in 21 states so far this year; at least 9 states have legislation in progress to require labeling. Some of those states include Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Minnesota. At this point only Washington State has an initiative on this Fall’s ballot that will give voters there the opportunity to say “Yes, we want GMO labeling of food packages” or “No, we don’t”.

California started it last year and in that state the initiative lost after both sides spent millions of dollars to influence voters. One of the reasons I don’t think state GMO labeling will work is the confusion it will generate for food processors, wholesalers, and retailers if every state comes up with a different law. It would mean different packaging and different labeling for every state.

Adding to that confusion are other twists such as the one in Connecticut. On the third of June, that state’s General Assembly passed legislation requiring the labeling of GMO foods, but listen to the amendment they tacked on to the bill. After the governor signs it, the law will not take effect until other States totaling at least 20-million in population pass similar legislation, AND one more stipulation, one of the States must border Connecticut! It sounds to me like they are concerned about the economic impact and don’t want to be left hanging out there by themselves.

I’ve heard from readers with several ideas, among them…“label all foods because probably 90% of our foods today contain a genetically enhanced organism”; “if people don’t want these foods, then they should buy all their food at the organic food stores and save the cost of labeling”; “with all the words on food labels already, it is going to add another hour to my shopping time to read all the information”. I personally like what Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told me when I asked him about the issue earlier this year…“There are two reasons for food labels, one is to state nutrition content and the other is to warn of a possible danger, and I have seen no scientific evidence that there is any danger in consuming these foods”.

As I said, I’m probably going to be on the losing side in this debate, so if we do label genetically enhanced food, then make it a federal law that will apply equally to all states and eliminate the confusion we would certainly have with different laws in every state.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.