It affects the ability of people to know what potentially harmful substances they're putting in their bodies.
So here's a question for the state Legislature: Why isn't this done yet?
For the past several years, the Legislature has been hemming and hawing and amending a bill that would require plant seeds and food containing “genetically modified organisms” -- known commonly as GMOs -- to be labeled as such so that consumers can make educated decisions about their food purchases.
Genetic engineering changes the genetic makeup of plants outside the natural process, creating crops that are, for example, resistant to herbicides and insects.
The majority of corn and soybeans in the U.S., much of which is fed to the animals that we then eat, comes from some form of laboratory-altered seed. About 70-80 percent of processed foods in this country, in fact, contains materials derived from genetically engineered crops.
There's some debate over whether GMOs are harmful. The government and food industry representatives (naturally) say GMOs are perfectly safe. But food safety and health activists are concerned about the potential long-term effects of GMOs on our health that may have yet to be determined.
The labeling bill under consideration (A617/S485) would inform New York consumers when their food contains GMOs. The bill provides detailed definitions of what constitutes genetically engineered foods and spells out what information the labels must contain.
Last week, members of an area coalition of farms and small businesses held a rally in Schenectady to call for support of the bill. Among those in attendance were individuals who said they have experienced negative health effects from eating genetically engineered foods.
They say that regardless of the debate over whether GMOs are dangerous or not, the government has an obligation to let consumers know what potentially harmful materials are in the food they eat so they can decide whether or not they should eat it.
It’s a basic consumer right. Those calling for labels are absolutely correct.
Other than the fear of food industry lobbyists not funding their political campaigns, why wouldn’t lawmakers support such labels?
What is the harm of providing consumers with information? And what's taking state legislators so long to require it?