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What would it Take to Get GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) Labeling in Denver?

Last month, more than 525 partners of the Just Label It campaign submitted what they say is a record-breaking 1.1 million comments to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) asking for the labeling of genetic foods.

Currently, more than 40 countries around the world require labeling, with some countries such as Hungary going so far as to ban GMOs and destroy fields they found corrupted with genetically modified seeds. And according to the Huffington Post and treehugger.com, cities like Hartford, Connecticut, and states like Vermont — along with roughly 20 others — are backing legislation to require labeling.

So why does Denver and Colorado, a city and state among the fittest and most health-conscious in the nation, seem so quiet on the issue?

“I think there is a desire to create change at the grassroots level because of a lack of faith in effecting change on a broader level when politicians everywhere always look to big business to solve our problems,” says Michael Anderson of Evolve to LOVE. “We will get labeling when people go into the stores and label.”

In Boulder, where a decision to phase out GMOs on public land was recently reversed, there was optimism that at least they could require labeling, with companies like Rudi’s Organic Bakery as industry backers.

“As Rudi’s and as an industry, we’re 100% in support of labeling,” says Doug Radi, VP of Marketing at Rudi’s Organic Bakery and chair of Naturally Boulder.

But things have been relatively quiet there too, with the focus being more on cultivating a local, sustainable food system. Which is a good thing for Boulder and the state, but it seems like GMO labeling would go hand-in-hand.

The FDA has so far remained mum on labeling, which speaks volumes. They contend that there is “no material difference” in foods containing ingredients from genetically modified crops and foods made from conventional crops.

Even if that were true, why not allow people to make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to purchase goods containing GMOs? A Mellman Group survey done last month based on the polling of 1,000 voters showed 91% supported the labeling of GMO foods, with even support among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. That level of consensus is almost unheard of.

Opponents of GMO labeling cite no proven safety issues and increased costs to the consumer due to packaging. But proponents of labeling see it as a basic human right, to know what they and their families are putting into their bodies.

So if the FDA, a group responsible for overseeing the safety of the country, isn’t going to listen, what are people to do? Well, for one thing, you can add your voice to the growing tidal wave of public outrage against GMOs that is washing up all over social media and the Web (see bulleted list below).

Another thing you can do is vote with your wallet. According to a recent study by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, about 80 percent of packaged foods contain genetically engineered ingredients. Either purchase organic, which doesn’t allow for GMOs, or try and purchase packaged goods that specifically say they contain no GMOs or that have labeling from the Non-GMO Project.

Lastly, you can push the city of Denver and the state of Colorado to join the labeling movement. In both city and state, any citizen can petition to have something added to the ballot. For the statewide ballot — for which the deadline just passed to get something on this year’s ballot —a petitioner needs 86,105 signatures, or 5% of the votes cast in the Secretary of State’s race. For the Denver ballot, valid signatures equal 5% of the total votes cast in the previous mayoral election, which would be 6,129. It is a fairly involved process for both, but certainly doable.

If the agencies that are in place to oversee the food industry — FDA, USDA, etc. — aren’t going to act for the public good and with regard to public sentiment, then it falls to cities, states, and most of all, the people, to enact change.

GMO Labeling Resources

Legislative Action & Ballot Initiative Information

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