Consumers have become increasingly sophisticated about the foods they consume, and with good reason. The link between the foods we eat and our health and well-being has become increasingly clear in recent years.
That’s one reason proper labeling of food is so necessary, and so popular with the public. Consumers expect to know if foods contain trans-fats, gluten, high fructose corn syrup, or aspartame. They expect to know calorie counts, sugar and fiber content, and other dietary information.
They also want to know if the foods they are consuming are natural, or a creation of artificial genetic engineering. In Europe, foods are routinely labeled if they are produced with genetically modified organisms, be it corn, soybeans, and even meat from animals. In the U.S., public support for labeling such foods is high— many surveys have found as much as 90 percent support.
Consumers want to know what’s in their food, and that’s why the Minnesota Legislature should approve a new GMO labeling law that’s currently making its way through the committee process. Unfortunately, industrial food manufacturers don’t want you to know how prevalent genetically-engineered foods have become in the marketplace. Companies like General Mills, Land-O-Lakes, and Monsanto have spent millions to keep such laws off the books for years, and they’re gearing up to fight the latest proposal here in Minnesota.
There’s a strong case to be made for federal labeling requirements, but until federal legislation can be approved, states need to act to protect their consumers. There’s no consensus that genetically-modified foods are safe. In fact, according to documents uncovered during litigation by the Center for Food Safety, federal Food and Drug Administration scientists have indicated that such foods could pose serious risks.
But as we know, science and consumer safety often take a back seat in Washington to powerful corporate interests. We’re hoping that a now DFL-dominated Minnesota Legislature will opt to side with consumers, by putting their interests first.
The good news is that legislators have introduced bills in both the House (HF 850) and Senate (SF 821), and the measures are advancing. A key test for the House version, which now has 13 authors, will come at the Agriculture Policy Committee. Northeastern Minnesota Rep. David Dill sits on that committee, so he will play a role in determining whether this bill is ultimately signed into law. If you’d like to know if the food you buy is genetically-engineered, give Rep. Dill a call at 651-296-2190, or email him at email@example.com.
At a time when the downsides of industrial food production are becoming ever-clearer, Minnesotans should have the ability to vote for change, through the exercise of their buying power. But consumers can’t push for changes, when they are kept in the dark by an industry that profits from their ignorance. Legislators should stand with consumers in this battle, and oppose the industrial food giants.