GMO labeling should be a basic right in Massachusetts - Via State rep Dennis Rosa
I had never been aware of the term GMO (genetically modified organisms) until several constituents requested that my colleagues and I introduce a bill for the labeling of GMO products back in 2011. Several years went by with no mention of GMO until several representatives introduced bills in 2013 for the labeling of GMO products, which spurred over 100 emails from you, my constituents, to support these bills. The bills ended up in committee, where they remained until several representatives, including myself, re-filed a bill in 2015. A hearing was held in September by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, where the bill still remains. I have received dozens of emails to date asking me to help release the bill from committee and bring it to the floor for a vote, which my colleagues and I are trying to do.
Due to the overwhelming concern of many of my constituents about GMOs, I decided to do some research on my own. I found that GMO (a genetically engineered organism) is a plant or meat product that has had its DNA artificially altered in a laboratory by genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria, in order to produce foreign compounds in that food. To date there has been no long-term studies conducted on the safety of these foods on humans; therefore, we do not know what effects they may cause to our health and environment. It has been said that since GMOs have entered the food supply over the past 20 years, there has been a consistent increase in chronic and acute illnesses, such as allergies, digestive disorders and cancers. Many studies suggest that there is a link between these and other illnesses, since the introduction of GMOs to our food supply. Doctors and scientists are unable to trace illnesses specifically to these foods, unless these foods are labeled. There are 64 countries, with over 40 percent of the world’s population, that already label genetically engineered foods. It is time that we do the same.
Of course, there are pros and cons to everything. One of the cons from vocal opponents of GMO food, including major food producers which manufacture products with genetically modified ingredients, is that labeling only confuses and frightens consumers. If labeling scares people, then the food industry would certainly go out of business. People should have the right to know what is in the products that they buy. Just as labels list fat, sodium and sugar content, they should also list whether or not the product includes GMO ingredients; this is just one more piece of helpful information to help people make the choice that is right for them. When it comes down to people’s health, the pros far outweigh the cons. To change the label to include GMO information, according to a 2014 report by Consumers Union, would only cost consumers about one penny per day, and that is not much when it comes to your health.
Just think, Russia and China label their GMO food products. What does that say about the most powerful, richest and most free country in the world? It’s time that we make GMO labeling one of our basic rights in Massachusetts and beyond.