Ethical Eating

GE Mandatory Labeling Laws Introduced in Florida

Genetically engineered foods have been a concern of many for quite some time now. For years, it was more an issue for vegetarians, environmentalists, pseudo-hippies, and ethically concerned chefs than for the general population. Not anymore. The presence -- and subsequent failure -- of Proposition 37 on California's ballot in November brought the labeling debate into the mainstream. Now individuals ranging from soccer moms to celebrities are airing concerns over GE foods. And they're finally being heard.

In Florida, a state not traditionally known for progressive political agendas, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda and Sen. Maria Lorts Sachs have introduced mandatory labeling bills that will be considered over the next few months.

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The bills, HB 1233 and S 1728, will require labeling for all foods that contain more than 1 percent GE ingredients, if passed. This would include plants that have been altered with alien genetic material to create genetic combinations that do not occur naturally. Most processed food will fall under these labeling laws, as they usually contain byproducts of GE corn, soy, or cotton.

According to the executive director of Food & Water Watch, Wenonah Hauter, "Labeling GE foods is not a novel idea. The European Union specifically addresses the new properties and risks of biotech crops, requiring all food, animal feed, and processed products with GE content to bear labels. In fact, the EU is among nearly 50 developed countries that require the GE products they import from the U.S. to be labeled. Furthermore, a 2012 Mellman Group Study showed that 91 percent of U.S. voters favored having the U.S. Food and Drug Administration require labels on GE foods and ingredients."

During the November election, the opposition to California's Prop. 37 -- namely major agribusinesses like Monsanto -- outspent the "Yes on 37" campaign 5-to-1. If you look at the numbers, that's hardly a competition. The bill, which started off with a 2-to-1 lead in some polls, ended being defeated 53 percent to 47 percent. With bills coming to the floor in Florida, we're going to bet you a strong opposition will start coming out of the woodwork.

We're going to hope that proponents of Florida's mandatory labeling laws learned from California's failure. Agribusinesses in California were able to strike fear into the population by arguing rising food costs. Would the costs have actually risen? Did the cost of margarine rise when the trans-fat mandatory labeling laws went into effect back in 2006? We haven't heard any complaints. Well, aside from the processed-food industry.

We would like to see a cogent argument from mandatory labeling supporters highlighting overarching health and environmental effects of GE foods. Although there have been no studies published on human health consequences resulting from intake of GE-foods -- for studies to be considered valid, they must be performed over the span of two generations -- there have been startling results discovered from long-term studies on rats. In the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, the study examined the health effects of rats fed a diet of NK603 Maize (the Roundup-resistant corn developed by Monsanto) over their two-year lifespan. It concluded that rats fed the NK603 Maize had a higher incidence of cancers and tumors and shorter lifespans than the control rats. Seventy percent of the female rats and 50 percent of male rats died prematurely, contrasted to 20 percent for female and 30 percent male in the control. No, we're not comparing human DNA to that of rats, but we do believe in red flags.

Quite frankly, it's fucking common sense. NK603 is a seed that had been developed to tolerate dousings of chemical weed killer. Late last year, we spoke to pharmacist and biochemist Dr. Rober Fishman of Post Haste Pharmacy in Hollywood. According to Fishman, all animals (including humans) have DNA receptors that are replenished through nutrients -- i.e., food. The genes in foods that have been genetically modified -- including hybrids and less evil incarnations -- have been changed and do not appropriately fit into gene receptors. These foods do not provide the same sort of benefits as foods that have not been tampered with, whole foods. If a hybrid tomato is considered to be a subpar form of nutrition, what do you think is the case with gene structure of a plant that is meant to outlive toxic dousings of chemicals?

According to Rehwinkel-Vasilinda, "Politically speaking, if legislators would know the imperative nature of the facts, the passion of the people supporting it, and the diversity of people who are lobbying for this bill to pass, there must be something to it. This is not just one political interest or lifestyle interest. If we want to get this bill a hearing, we need a lot of press, a lot of citizens bugging their local representatives, and I need more co-sponsors. Although, already Rep. Mark Pafford has signed on as a co-sponsor."

Although there is a long way to go in terms of getting this bill to the floor, there is a chance. Call your local representative or senator if you want to see GE labeling on your food.

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Sara Ventiera