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"Pennsylvania's leading progressive state senator," as he described himself, has done it again. State Senator Daylin Leach (17th District - Montgomery & Delaware counties), in addition to bills in favor of marriage equality and marijuana legalization, has now introduced Senate Bill 653 which would mandate the labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) foods, or foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMO's), sometimes referred to as "Frankenfood."

The Center for Food Safety, an organization cited by Leach, says:

By being able to take the genetic material from one organism and insert it into the permanent genetic code of another, biotechnologists have engineered numerous novel creations, such as potatoes with bacteria genes, “super” pigs with human growth genes, fish with cattle growth genes, tomatoes with flounder genes, and thousands of other plants, animals and insects. At an alarming rate, these creations are now being patented and released into the environment.

Currently, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products). According to industry, up to 95% of sugar beets are now GE. It has been estimated that upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.

A number of studies over the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans, domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment. Human health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer. As for environmental impacts, the use of genetic engineering in agriculture will lead to uncontrolled biological pollution, threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction, and the potential contamination of all non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material.

That's right, "super" pigs with human growth genes. Yum! I don't know about you, but I suddenly have a righteous hankering for a hot dog.

No state in America has a law requiring GMO labels on food products that have been created like this, though in 2012 there was a referendum on the ballot in California to do so that went down 53.1-46.9 after $46 million was spent opposing it (including money from Monsanto and Pepsi) compared to $9 million in favor. In a press release, Senator Leach said his legislation is "similar" to the California referendum and pointed out that eight countries in the European Union have banned the cultivation and/or sale of genetically engineered foods entirely. He also compared the struggle to have GE foods labeled to past (eventually successful) fights to have ingredient labels, nutritional information and calorie counts on food products.

Daylin Leach
There is a short amateur video available where you can watch Senator Leach answer a couple questions about SB 653. Another press release from his office said, "Despite the lack of legislative action on this issue so far in the United States, sixty-one countries (including Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, Russia, Malaysia, the European Union member states and other key U.S. trading partners) already have laws requiring disclosure of genetically modified organisms on food labels," and quoted him saying:
I’ve introduced this bill not to ban genetically engineered foods, but to allow consumers to choose which items they purchase. I am concerned about the lack of information available about the presence of genetically engineered food, and I believe it is every consumer’s right to know what ingredients are found in the products they buy. We can find out how much fat and sodium are in our food, with a full list of ingredients and nutritional information on every box, but we are not informed about the inclusion of ingredients that could be potentially detrimental to our health and wellness.
In an interview with USA Today, Biotechnology Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest Director Gregory Jaffe said that while genetically engineered foods are under the the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA does not test them before they're allowed to be produced and sold, there is only a "voluntary consultation process" and the FDA assumes GE foods are safe unless they have evidence indicating otherwise. The problems with that are blatant enough. If they're not doing the tests, they're not going to have the evidence needed to know the foods are unsafe, and if corporations legally obligated to prioritize profits over people (as they are) are in charge of doing their own tests, it's awfully generous to assume they'd be altruistic enough to come forward with evidence that their own products are unsafe and voluntarily take the hit in profits that would come with abandoning them. It's as close to "the fox watching the hen house" being a literal assessment as I've ever encountered.
genetically engineered modified carrot food
Especially with the FDA out to lunch (that counts as a pun, right?) on this, it's as critical as can be that we get mandatory labels on all foods that have been genetically engineered or modified. Like Leach's bills for marriage equality and marijuana legalization, this isn't a public policy fight that's going to be won overnight, but it is important for progressives to have an elected official staking out this position as a starting point to elevate the debate and for people to coalesce around the issue. Recent polling shows majorities in favor of the marriage, marijuana, and GMO labeling positions alike. It didn't hit me immediately when I first heard the phrase "you are what you eat" that it is literally true, but it is, and regulating what we put into our bodies has to be among the most sacred abilities we have. Or, at least, it ought to be.

Originally posted to ProgressivePatriotPA on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 03:39 AM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Pennsylvania and Environmental Foodies.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from those who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Fighting Bob La Follette

    by ProgressivePatriotPA on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 03:39:22 AM PDT

  •  PA's leading progressive state senator! (3+ / 0-)

    No wonder I've never heard of him despite living here!

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 03:56:42 AM PDT

  •  Still pre-empted by federal law. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This isn't even like medical marijuana, where state law can at least change some small aspect.  It is completely prohibited by federal law.

    •  I'm curious, what is the difference between this (0+ / 0-)

      and the marijuana laws? My understanding was that the state marijuana medical and recreational legalization laws were in full conflict with federal law and technically federal law prohibits them, but they don't fully enforce it. I'd really like to know what law you're referring to and what the difference is with marijuana. Whether there's an explicit law saying "don't legalize X" or "X is illegal," federal law still trumps state law.

      Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from those who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Fighting Bob La Follette

      by ProgressivePatriotPA on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 10:08:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here's the federal law on possession. (0+ / 0-)

        Section 844. Penalty for Simple Possession

        It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess a controlled substance unless such substance was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order, from a practitioner, while acting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter. It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess any list I chemical obtained pursuant to or under authority of a registration issued to that person under section 823 of this title or section 958 of this title if that registration has been revoked or suspended, if that registration has expired, or if the registrant has ceased to do business in the manner contemplated by his registration.
        As I recall (and it appears on re-reading the CSA) Schedule I prescriptions aren't prohibited... they just aren't mentioned as authorized.  Thus allowing states to authorize Schedule I prescriptions without invoking federal preemption.  States generally keep their own schedules of drugs anyway, and have been known to move drugs higher in the schedule system than the federal schedules.

        Since the administration has prohibited the justice department from bringing suit on this issue, it hasn't gotten its day in court.

        (It's possible I've missed something, as this is hardly an issue I pay a lot of attention to, but I think that's correct.)

  •  We have a bill like this in the CT statehouse (4+ / 0-)

    local farmers and activists are pushing the State Assembly to mandate labeling of GMOs.
    What does it say about Monsanto that they KNOW that they have to hide the facts to get people to buy their products? That they actually come out and say that labeling would hurt their bottom line, not because labeling itself is expensive but because if it's on the label people won't buy it? That is exactly their argument, and they further argue that they should be allowed to continue to fool customers into buying something that we don't want.
    Here in CT, it's David Vs Goliath. We have very little agriculture left and Dow and Monsanto and pFizer all have headquarters here and do GMO research here.
    If they honestly believe that their products are as wonderful as they say they are, then there should be no problem putting the information (in agate type) on the label. If the public doesn't like it and market forces push their products back, then they need to either do a better job of proving the safety of their products or find a different line of work.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 06:51:50 AM PDT

    •  It seems like it was David versus Goliath even in (0+ / 0-)

      California, which is obviously considered one of the most left-leaning states, so that does make it seem like an almost impossibly heavy lift for us in states like PA and CT that are less solidly blue. Still, the polling is on our side, and as you point out, the reasons from industry about why we shouldn't label GMO's are so bad that I think most people can I see right through them.

      Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from those who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Fighting Bob La Follette

      by ProgressivePatriotPA on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 10:19:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this diary (5+ / 0-)

    I'm surprised with the lack of interest shown on this site. I'm so frustrated that the simple requirement to label food is such an uphill battle. I'm a strong advocate of banning GE technology or at the very least until it is thoroughly understood.

    Funny how containors labelled "From cows not treated with rBST." there is also

    No scientific difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST treated and non-dBST treated cows
    •  I don't believe it is lack of interest (4+ / 0-)

         But the inability to impact the action.

           Most of the generic public don't understand the process or the inherit damage.    Considering the ALEC motivated Ag / Gag rules, it will only be a matter of time until some sort of State or National food related poisoning event to finally provoke the FDA to admit that they have been totally asleep at the wheel.

           It took deaths to uncover the Pharma deaths in MA - to see that FDA had been locked out of the regulatory process and that was just a temporary "hair on fire" event - as I have seen no new regulatory demand in Congress.

      •  I would like to think that people could get (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AZ Sphinx Moth, marina

        activated and do something about the issue before it gets to that point, but unfortunately history is rife with examples of things having to get absurdly bad before waking people up to make it better.

        Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from those who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Fighting Bob La Follette

        by ProgressivePatriotPA on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 10:51:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  You'd think that not allowing something until its (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AZ Sphinx Moth, marina

      effects were thoroughly researched might be, I don't know, a "conservative" position, but on GMO labeling as well as natural gas fracking that doesn't seem to be the case. Thanks for your support!

      Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from those who are aggressive for what is wrong. - Fighting Bob La Follette

      by ProgressivePatriotPA on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 10:49:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hmm... (0+ / 0-)

      I'm not a big fan of GMO crops but I'm given to understand that they are an important factor in food production especially in developed countries. In other words, people would starve without them.

  •  Got to wonder (0+ / 0-)

    ...if anything in the grocery store isn't genetically modified.

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