Coalition Launches Push for Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods in PA

A broad coalition of consumer, environmental, labor, farming, faith and business organizations recently announced the launch of a statewide campaign to pass legislation requiring the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods in Pennsylvania. The coalition was joined by State Senator Daylin Leach, cosponsor of a GE labeling bill that was introduced in the legislature recently with bipartisan support.

Since their introduction to the market more than a decade ago there has been an explosion of GE foods on the shelves of grocery stores. Inadequate testing of these products by government agencies and a reliance on industry-produced health and safety data has resulted in a growing GE labeling movement among consumers across the nation.

“I’ve introduced this bill not to ban genetically engineered foods, but to allow consumers to take control of which items they purchase. I believe it is every consumer’s right to know what ingredients are found in the products they buy,” Sen. Daylin Leach said. “We can find out how much fat and sodium are in our food, with a full list of ingredients and nutritional information on every box, but we are not informed about the inclusion of ingredients that could be potentially detrimental to our health and wellness.”

"As food production technology evolves, so should our food labeling. Consumers have a right to know which products on market shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients, just like their right to know calorie counts and salt content,” said Sam Bernhardt, statewide organizer with Food & Water Watch. "Whole Foods just announced they would label GE foods by 2018, but we can set the safety bar higher by doing it here and now."

Labeling GE foods is not a novel idea. The European Union specifically addresses the new properties and risks of biotech crops by requiring all food, animal feed and processed products with GE contents to bear labels. The EU is among nearly 50 developed countries that require the GE products they import from the United States to be labeled. Furthermore, a 2012 Mellman Group study showed that 91% of US voters favored GE labeling requirements.

“The American consumer has woken up in the last few years and feels unnerved by the smokescreen surrounding our food supply. The demand for transparency is peaking and the GE labeling movement is a reflection of this,” said Zofia Hausman of GMO-Free PA. “This is simply about our fundamental right to know what is in our food and the freedom to choose.”

“Consumers today are better educated and more savvy about issues related to food. They want to know where it comes from, how it is produced, and what’s been added to it along the way to their dinner tables,” said Brian Snyder, executive director of Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture. “Farmers are also benefitting from such transparency in the food system. They want labels to reflect the truth about food.”

“While there are as many reasons for joining a co-op as there are people who join them, there’s one thing that co-op consumers, and all consumers, have in common: they care about what they eat. That’s why co-ops care about GE labeling; our members, our shoppers and all shoppers have a right to know what they are eating,” said Jon McGoran, communications director for Weavers Way Co-op.

“Genetically engineered food is a major threat to the family farm. Organic and sustainable farming methods can feed the world and will make it a healthier place to live and work. I want GE foods off my farms and out of my food, and this legislation will help accomplish that,” said organic farmer Roman Stoltzfoos of Spring Wood Dairy.

Source: Food & Water Watch

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