We live in a society where the tendency is to point fingers and polarize subjects into good and bad. When it comes to the subject of GE Labeling there seems to be a really strong division between those who think the technology is the greatest thing since sliced bread that will allow farmers to grow more food at lower costs and those who think it is the equivalent of a Frankenfood.
SB 1666, the GE Labeling Bill (Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act) that State Senator David Koehler (D-Peoria) introduced to the Illinois Senate is trying to strike that middle ground by making the information available on a food label. Our country was built on freedom and this bill is purely about freedom of information, not making a determination about the value of GMOs (the acronyms GE and GMOs are used interchangeably).
There was a very heated debate in the comments section of an article recently posted (3/4/14) on the site, Modern Farmer, "Why Does Everyone Hate Monsanto?" written by Lessely Anderson. People weighed in referencing scientific studies for both sides of the issue. Those in support of GMO's positioned those against GMOs as extremists. Those against GMOs positioned those in favor as a conspiracy to control the seed supply for financial gain. The one thing I think both sides can definitely agree on is that WE JUST DO NOT KNOW THE LONG TERM EFFECTS OF GMOS. The GE issue is complicated! It is for this reason, that we just do not know the long-term effects of GMOs that justifies a labeling bill. We do know that Monsanto labels its products as GMOs to its consumer the farmer, why can't that labeling be passed down to me the consumer? If Monsanto does want to work on its image and not be perceived as a villain, why doesn't it support labeling as well? What about those people in the middle, who may or not be aware of the GMO issue? Labeling is about food information freedom and is the number one reason why you should support the labeling bill.
On a anecdotal level, I grant you it is a bit of oranges versus apples, if my cable company RCN can pass down prices to me the consumer that it is charged by the sports programmers and the major broadcasters, why can't the labeling that Monsanto presents to their customer the farmer be passed down to me the consumer?George Fabyan on the Plainfield Patch writes about the issue,
There is no middle ground in the debate between the "naturalists" and the big seed companies over the touted evils and virtues, respectively, of genetically modified organisms.
However, I completely disagree. There is middle ground and this bill SB 1666 is middle ground. This bill is about the consumer's right to know, it is not pointing fingers as to good or bad. Monsanto has their reasons for labeling to the farmer, but if they label to the farmer, as the end user, I want that labeling passed down to me.
In Chicago, places like the Green City Market, the Green Grocer and Whole Foods, are meticulous about their labeling and vetting process. They make sure that all the products on their shelves are sustainably grown and raised by their farmers, producers and suppliers. But most food suppliers are not as meticulous.
The European Union now wants American cheese producers to label their cheese "in the style of" because the names of the cheeses: gruyere, asiago, feta, muenster are particular to regions in Europe and the European producers want to protect their brands.
At the incredible Good Food Festival this past weekend, State Senator Koehler spoke about SB 1666 bill, alongside State Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) who has introduced a house bill, HB 5657 to standardize the regulation and fees associated with farmers markets in Illinois. Illinois State Representative Robyn Gabel (D- 18th District) spoke about the house bill HB 5690 that she introduced to add a penny per ounce excise tax to sugary beverages in Illinois to fight obesity.
If you want to be more informed about food legislation in Illinois join the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. Food and Water Watch Illinois has been incredibly active in researching and supporting the GE Labeling bill as well. You can sign petitions to support the GE labeling here and here.
The GE Labeling bill is not about making a decision about the pros/cons of GE foods, it is not about vilifying Monsanto, it is about freedom of information and the right to know. There are definitely consumers who want to know what they are buying when it comes to food, they want that freedom and that is the number one reason why you should support the GE Labeling bill, contact your State Senator and let them know that you care! Freedom is what the United States is built on. I hope that all Illinois legislators who have not signed onto the bill yet will support that freedom. It is our right to know!