Legislation requiring labeling of certain genetically
engineered foods still is percolating in the Illinois General Assembly and under
consideration in other states.
Over the past year, voters in California and Washington
defeated the labeling bills. Maine and Connecticut passed the law, but the bill
contains a provision that at least four other Northeaster states need to
Proponents of the labeling claim such a regulation would
give consumers a choice between genetically engineered food and non-GE
Opponents say the law would imply food with GE ingredients
is unsafe and result in higher food costs passed down from processors.
State Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, agriculture committee’s
food labeling subcommittee chair, introduced the legislation and hosted public
meetings in Chicago, Bloomington and Carbondale to hear both sides of the issue.
New Hampshire state Reps. Tara Sad and Bob Haefner, members
of the environment and agriculture committee, voted against the mandatory
labeling of foods bill after 19 meetings focusing on the topic.
The legislators recently shared their reasoning behind the
anti-labeling positions, and I couldn’t agree more. They wrote the
“First, there has been no credible scientific study that
proves that there is any material difference between GMO and non-GMO foods. No
nutritional difference. No health safety difference. In fact, we have all been
eating foods made with genetic engineering for more than 20 years.
“To that end, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s
regulations state that requiring the labeling of foods that are
indistinguishable from foods produced through traditional methods would mislead
consumers by falsely implying differences where none exist.
“Second, many legal experts tell us that this labeling bill
is unconstitutional. Requiring food companies to label their products when there
is no health or safety reason to do so fails the state interest test undermines
commercial free speech and violates interstate commerce.
“The court challenges that would likely follow passage of a
GMO labeling bill would prove a backbreaking financial burden to our inadequate
state general fund. When we were sworn in as state representatives, we took an
oath to uphold the Constitution. We would be breaking that oath were we to vote
for this unconstitutional bill.
“Third, the bill is unenforceable. Our over-extended Health
and Human Services Department, which will be charged with the administration and
enforcement of this bill, has no experience in food labeling and estimates the
costs to enact the bill will be anywhere from $125,000 to $550,000 per year.
Once again, who is going to pay for this?
“And, finally, product labeling is a federal — not a state —
responsibility. The FDA determines what information needs to be present on our
food labels, not to satisfy consumer curiosity, but for our health and safety.
“They, along with the American Medical Association, the
National Academies of Science, the World Health Organization and other trusted
scientific organizations have all come out in support of foods made with genetic
engineering, stating that foods made with this process are as healthy and
nutritious as their conventional counterparts.”