GE Labeling in Illinois: What You Should Know and What You Can Do

08/05/2013 03:40 pm ET Updated Oct 05, 2013

Guess what? There currently is a bill, SB 1666 that Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) introduced to the State Senate in February to require foods produced with GE products sold in Illinois to show the information on the label. This summer and through the fall, a series of public hearings are taking place to discuss the bill, with the next one set for Aug 7 in Carbondale and the last one set for September 17 in Chicago.

Genetically engineered (GE) foods -- also called genetically modified, or GMO -- are foods composed of ingredients derived from crops -- and perhaps, soon, animals -- that are altered with inserted genetic material to exhibit a desired trait. Most commercial GE crops are developed to be either herbicide tolerant, allowing herbicides to kill weeds without harming crops, or insect resistant, which protects plants from destructive pests.

The industry promotes genetic engineering as an environmentally responsible, profitable way for farmers to feed a growing global population. But despite all the hype, genetically engineered plants and animals do not perform better than their traditional counterparts, and they raise a slew of health, environmental and ethical concerns.

GE crops pose a serious threat to non-GE crops, especially organic farms. Farmers can face significant economic hardship if genetically engineered crops contaminate their non-GE and organic crops or organic livestock feed. Cross pollination is so common that even Monsanto admits that "a certain amount of incidental, trace level pollen movement occurs."

Polls show that a vast majority of consumers want food containing GE ingredients to be labeled; consumers want to be able to decide whether to consume the products.

Whether you agree or disagree on whether GE foods cause cancer, tumors and other illnesses, 64 other countries require GE labeling! What do they know that we don't? Chipotle Mexican Grill has recently announced that they will label their GMO foods, Whole Foods and Ben and Jerry's have followed suit.

What can you as an Illinois consumer do to see that the bill passes? Food and Water Watch has been coordinating the campaign in Illinois and you can attend one of the hearings this summer or send a letter to your state senator and ask them to co-sponsor the bill.

I have published a series of updates and will continue to on The Local Beet, including a recap of the first hearing in Normal. Food and Water Watch Illinois has a ton of great information on their website in regard to studies, a research paper on Monsanto and references to studies done on GE Foods. If GE foods present no harm then WHY NOT label them? Don't we as a consumer have the right to know what is in the food that we buy?