Consumers see labels for organic, trans fat-free, all-natural and vegetarian on products at the supermarket.
Soon enough, shoppers wheeling their carts through the aisles may see foods labeled with genetically engineered ingredients.
State Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Montgomery County, this morning during a press conference in the state Capitol announced the introduction of a bill that would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in Pennsylvania.
If passed, the legislation would be the first of its kind in the United States.
“The people of Pennsylvania should have a choice,” Leach said.
The bill would take effect 18 months after passage. Manufacturers and distributors would have to affix labels on the products.
“This bill is not meant to prevent genetic engineering. It is not limited in anyway. It doesn’t stop anyone from purchasing bigger salmon or allegedly pesticide resistant crops that have been genetically engineered. But some people do not want to consume that. Why can’t they know and make their own decisions?” Leach said.
The topic of genetically engineered foods has made headlines in recent weeks. Last week, Whole Foods announced it will require all genetically modified foods in its stores to be labeled starting in 2018.
Other states, including California and Colorado, have attempted legislation to label foods as genetically engineered.
More than 60 countries, including those in Europe, label genetically engineered food which makes the United States the only industrialized nation that does not, said Zofia Hausman of GMO-Free PA.
She added that it is estimated that more than 80 percent of processed foods products contain genetically engineered ingredients.
“With no long term safety tests conducted, our health and our children’s health may be at risk. Consumer awareness and choice are more important than ever,” Hausman said.
In 2012, she said, the FDA dismissed a petition signed by more than one million people calling for genetic engineer labeling, making it harder for people to fight for what is in their food, Hausman said.
“This is the people’s movement. No corporation has the right to decide what is best for us and our loved ones. The time for legislation has come. The time to act is now,” she said.
Sam Bernhardt, a statewide organizer for Food & Water Watch, said more than 70 groups including farmers, food co-ops and the Pennsylvania Association of Nurses, supports the legislation. In addition, the legislation has bi-partisan support and more than 11 co-sponsors, he added.
Brian Snyder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, said farmers are increasingly losing ownership of the seeds they grow. Many farmers are opting to use seeds and feed for animals that is not genetically altered.
“They deserve to get a benefit from the public,” he said.