HARRISBURG, Pa. - It's on the November ballot in Colorado and Oregon, and today, Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering it too whether to label genetically-modified ingredients in food sold in the state. GMO labeling is the topic of an "informational meeting" of the House Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs in Harrisburg.
The watchdog group Consumers Union is a national proponent of labeling, and just released a study estimating it would cost consumers about $2.30 per person, per year. That's a stark contrast to food industry-funded studies, which peg the cost at $100 to $200 a year per person. Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives with Consumers Union, sees it as a food-safety issue.
Food science professors from three universities are among the speakers at today's House Committee meeting. Most people eat genetically-modified foods every day and in 64 countries, food producers are required to label them. In Pennsylvania, House Bill 1770 was filed a year ago to mandate GMO labeling. It has more than 60 cosponsors but has been stuck in committee.
The ingredient labeling debate is part of a larger, grassroots movement known as "food sovereignty" advocating less industrial agriculture, fewer imported farm products and more locally produced foods. Last month, a "Justice Begins with Seeds" conference in Oregon attracted people from across the country to learn more about it. Oregon farmer Chris Hardy was there, and says Americans are paying for convenience with their health.
"If you believe there's nothing wrong with the food supply, look around at the amount of obesity," Hardy says. "You don't even know who grows your food, you don't know how it was produced; we're kind of 'dumbing down' our culture."
Today's hearing begins at 9 a.m. in the Main Capitol Building Room 140, Harrisburg, Pa.