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Colorado Bill to Require Genetically Modified Food Labeling Rejected

On February 21, HB 1192 was voted down by a 7 to 2 margin after hours of emotional testimony. This bill would have defined what it means to be “genetically engineered” and would have required a person selling, distributing, or offering for-sale food in Colorado to identify genetically engineered food with the following label: “This product contains genetically engineered material or was produced with genetically engineered material.”

Thirteen seemingly innocuous words that invite a world of interpretation and vitriol. As with everything, there are of course pros and cons to this issue, summed up nicely — and one would hope without bias — by Colorado State University.

The bill was introduced by Democratic Representative Jeanne Labuda of Denver, who simply stated that consumers deserve to know how their food is produced. Those who disagree say it isn’t that simple. But nothing worth doing ever is.

This bill was imperfect and contained numerous exemptions, but it was a start. There are more than 60 countries around the world that require GMO labeling for their food. The United States, of course, isn’t one of them. In fact, as I wrote a few weeks ago, not only do we not label, we have laid the groundwork to become the first country on the planet to approve genetically modified fish for human consumption.

The crux of the GMO issue, in my estimation, comes down to the science and the safety. The biggest argument that is always heard from opponents of labeling is that there is “no significant difference between foods produced using bio-engineering and their conventional counterparts,” as stated recently by Former CAWG President Chris Tallman, chairman of the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Joint Biotechnology Committee, and a National Spokesperson for Biotechnology.

And the hubris of that statement is what always gets me. If there was no difference, 60+ countries would not require labeling. If there was no difference, bio-engineering firms would not spend millions upon millions of dollars to defeat any attempt at legislation, as was done with Proposition 37 in California. (An interesting — and sad — thing to note:  The “No on 37″ campaign (made up mostly of pesticide and processed food manufacturers) spent more than $45.6 million. The “Yes on 37″ campaign spent $8.9 million.)

In other words, it turns out it’s not really about safety. Never was. It’s about money. Who has enough Benjamins to create the truth and sway public opinion.

Few people who promote the idea of labeling think it’s as simple as slapping a piece of paper on a product. But those who say it can’t be done are being disingenuous at best.

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