ST. PAUL — On Monday, Jan. 26, Minnesota legislators introduced bills in both the House (H.F. 351) and Senate (S.F. 335) to require foods containing genetically engineered ingredients, or GMOs, to be labeled as such. GMOs are organisms where DNA from one or more unrelated species is put into DNA of a target crop so that it expresses desired traits, mainly to withstand pesticides or produce insecticidal toxins.
Recent credible public polls show super-majorities in support of GMO labeling, regardless of gender, political affiliation, or age. The latest from Associated Press-GfK shows that 66 percent were in favor while 7 percent opposed, with equal support for labeling from Republicans and Democrats.
The GMO labeling bill will require food manufacturers and retailers to label packages, and fresh produce, which are produced with genetic engineering by Jan. 1, 2017. It exempts restaurants and food preparers, and would not apply to meats, dairy products, or eggs.
“The law is aligned with current state labeling legislation and mandatory labeling laws already in place in 64 other countries, including major trading partners Europe, Japan and China,” says Jim Riddle, Right To Know Minnesota board member. “If passed, the law will expand opportunities for Minnesota farmers and food manufacturers to meet fast-growing markets.”
Last year, 30 states offered legislation to improve consumers’ ability to know if a food contains GMO ingredients. Several states have already introduced legislation this year. Minnesota’s bill language is similar to Vermont’s bill, which passed last spring.
“While national labeling of foods containing GMOs would be preferable, inaction by Congress gives us no alternative to pursuing this at the state level,” said Senator John Marty, the Senate author of the legislation. “Many important laws were developed first at the state level, then the federal. Passage of Minnesota’s GMO labeling bill will give Minnesotans a place at the table when federal legislation is being developed,” noted Marty.
Unlike conventional breeding and hybridization, GMO crops are patented and were introduced into the U.S. food supply in the 1990s without disclosure to consumers. A growing number of studies raise concerns about long-term effects of GMOs, and associated pesticides, on human health and the environment.
“Food companies disclose all sorts of information on packaging relating to ingredients, nutritional values, etc. It’s very disappointing that many of them do not disclose the presence of GMO ingredients,” said Representative Karen Clark, the House author of the legislation. “Without such labeling, ordinary consumers are left wondering about what they’re really consuming and feeding to their children. The right to know is a real and basic right.”