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Congress Ponders "Right to Know" Bill to Label G-M-O Foods

February 17, 2012

OXFORD, Conn. – The rise of genetically-modified foods on supermarket shelves has raised concerns in Connecticut and across the country - and now, has prompted legislation in Congress to label these foods.

Andrew Kimbrell, founder of the Center for Food Safety, believes genetically-modified or GMO crops can contaminate organic and conventional crops, hurt other organisms, and affect human health. He says GMO crops also are becoming more pest and weed-resistant, leading to greater use of pesticides and herbicides.

"They're ratcheting up the toxic spiral of the herbicides they're using. So, in the future, unless we stop these GMO crops, we're going to see more and more of these more toxic herbicides poured on our crops. That means it's in our air and in our water; that means it's in our food and that means it's in our bodies."

Supporters of genetically-modified foods say they can solve hunger and help a farmer's bottom line. Opponents of GMO production include the Connecticut chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. The group thinks GMO crops are risky enough that consumers should have the right to know if they're buying food that has been genetically modified.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved unrestricted use of genetically-engineered alfalfa, the nation's fourth-largest crop. To Kimbrell, the decision sends a message that federal agencies aren't doing enough to ensure food safety.

"I think what you are seeing with the FDA, the USDA and even the EPA is, these are agencies really working to benefit a handful of major chemical companies, and not really acting on behalf of the American consumer, which is what they are supposed to be doing."

Kimbrell cites GMO crops as one factor contributing to the larger problems of industrial agriculture. In his view, consumers and farmers need to work together and get back to basics, to build a lasting food future.

"We need agriculture that's local, appropriate-scale, diverse, humane and socially just. That's the 'beyond organic' vision - and it's not pie in the sky. We're going to have to do this, because the other system is simply unsustainable."

Kimbrell says polls indicate the public wants genetically-engineered foods to be clearly labeled. Congress is considering the "Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act" (HR 3553), which would require such labeling. The bill has 19 co-sponsors, none from Connecticut.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT