It's not just hippies, environmentalists, and -- more recently -- foodies who are paying attention to the whole genetically modified organisms (GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) food issue anymore; it's getting attention from big corporations and even The Daily Show these days.
While it's great that public figures and purveyors of inexpensive and awesome fast Mexican food, Chipotle, are jumping on the anti-GMO (or GE) bandwagon, that's not exactly going to change the laws of the land. However, Florida House Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda recently introduced House Bill 1, calling for the mandatory labeling of GMO foods, and she recently found a powerful ally.
Filed on August 15, Rehwinkel-Vasilinda's House Bill 1, also referred to as "Truth in Labeling," calls for mandatory labeling of all GMO foods. HB 1 would require that by January 1, 2016, all foods sold in Florid retails outlets that is entirely or partially produced with genetic modified ingredients must have label indicating so.
This is the second year in a row in which Rehwinkel-Vasilinda has filed a mandatory labeling bill. After being lobbied by concerned citizens and activists, she decided to file a similar bill in the recently passed spring legislative session; that bill, however, never even made it to committee.
Rehwinkel-Vasilinda just announced that the new version of the bill has received support from Sen. Jeremy Ring (D).
"I appreciate and am very much looking forward to working with Senator Ring on this legislation which would provide 'Truth in Labeling' of the food that Floridians purchase and eat. Senator Ring can be a powerful ally in the Senate. In addition to interest from Senator Ring, I have already begun receiving co-sponsor requests for HB 1 from my colleagues in the State House of Representatives," said Rehwinkel-Vasilinda in a news release.
Although mandatory labeling initiatives have been steadily sprouting up across the country, they face heavy opposition from major agribusinesses such as Monsanto, DuPont, Cargill, Dow, Bayer, and BASF.
In Florida, both of the previous mandatory labeling initiatives did not make it to committee -- local Sen. Maria Lorts Sachs filed a similar bill and faced the same issue -- Rehwinkel-Vasilinda is hopeful that HB 1 will move along smoothly.
To move ahead, HB 1 will need to be placed on the agenda of the Agriculture and Natural Resource Subcommittee as well as other committees once it is referred to them by the speaker's office.
"It sometimes does take a number of years for an important bill to prevail against heavy lobbying or to explain a complex issue," said Rehwinkel-Vasilinda. "The 'Truth in Labeling' bill is straightforward legislation, but this issue has had powerful opponents in other parts of the country and around the world who have inserted millions of dollars into the lobbying process. Working to get enough 'yes' votes for a bill to make it out of its committees and onto the House and Senate floors is a challenge. In speaking with Senator Ring last week about the 'Truth in Labeling' issue, I heard his passion and determination to get this bill presented and passed. I thank him for taking the 'Truth in Labeling' issue on. It will take hard work and the determination of me, Senator Ring, and all the legislators that sign on to co-sponsor the bill to get it passed. It will also require unrelenting public pressure all along the way. 'Nothing worth having is ever easy' my mom always said, and knowing the source of our food, whether it was genetically engineered, and its connection to our farmers and our natural heritage is critical information that Floridians want and have a right to know. "
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Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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