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Our View: Give people the GMO law they've asked for
The U.S. Senate last week passed a bill that addresses food labeling for genetically engineered food and food ingredients. It may be voted on in the House of Representatives as soon as today, and could be awaiting the president’s signature before the weekend. That is an outcome we hope is avoided, as the law caters to industry, leaving the public interest and states rights in silence.
The giants of the food industry appear to be pleased — grocers, big agriculture, commodities growers and others — while consumers who want to know as much as they can about what they consume are having their voices and choices stifled.
The law has been roundly criticized by those who seek useful labeling of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Instead of clear, unambiguous labels that indicate the presence or absence of GM ingredients, companies would use symbols, 800-numbers or QR codes, none of which is genuinely conducive to the practical acquisition of useful information in the grocery aisle.
Another objection is raised about loopholes associated with a non-standard definition of a GMO, which could effectively obscure great swaths of foods from the transparency sought in the first place. Besides that, there are no fines or penalties associated with non-compliance, only weak incentives.
Most egregious, it would repeal or prevent states from adopting their own consumer labeling laws if they require standards such as the one that took effect in Vermont on July 1 … or the laws already passed in Maine, Connecticut and Alaska … or the law in the Massachusetts Legislature awaiting a vote.
GMO foods — engineered for efficiency and profit, not nutrition — have not been deemed dangerous by the Food and Drug Administration, or the issue would be moot. Nevertheless, transparent, informative labeling tends toward better educated consumers, which tends toward better nutrition. Community Supported Agriculture; community gardens and orchards; and hydroponic gardens grown commercially in Fall River and academically at UMass Dartmouth all encourage better nutrition on SouthCoast.
These healthy, sustainable alternatives may replace more and more of the mass-produced foods that fill to bursting the shelves of grocery stores and the cupboards of an America beset by the health and social impacts of obesity. Education spreads knowledge of these alternatives into the communities most in need of better nutrition options.
Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey voted against the bill, with the Senate tally 63-30. If the president were to exercise the veto, it’s not clear if it could be overridden in the Senate, where the pro and con positions on the bill each have bipartisan support. Seven senators did not vote on the bill, but could vote on an veto override.
We anticipate unanimity among the Bay State’s House delegation, and we also assume the Republican majority will see it through and move it to the president’s desk.
If President Obama signs it into law, it will hamstring states in their efforts to write laws arising out of the will of the people, not the whims of gigantic corporations that already control too much of our national nutrition. It's not the law the people are asking for.
We're calling on big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Tell KFC to stop serving meat raised on routine antibiotics.
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