Florida will become the latest state to tackle the issue of genetically engineered food in its upcoming legislative session. A bill introduced by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, HB 1, would require labeling of genetically engineered foods in Florida.[emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as they are referred to generically, are products whose DNA has been altered in some way to enhance desirable qualities, such as nutritional value or resistance to plant diseases. Genetically engineered foods have been sold in the U.S. since the 1990s. Commonly modified foods include corn, soybean, and canola oil. Due to the complexity of the food supply chain, some estimate that as much as 80 percent of packaged food items in the U.S. contain GMOs. Some scientists and doctors are concerned about the potential health threats of GMOs, but the debate within the scientific community regarding the harmful effects of GMOs on public health rages on.
The debate at the state level focuses on labeling laws to inform consumers. HB 1’s supporters argue that consumers have a right to know whether the foods they are buying have been genetically altered. While the bill would not prevent the sale of genetically engineered products, it would require them to be labeled as “GMO.” However, the biggest obstacle to labeling laws is lobbying by agrochemical companies who want avoid the increased costs associated with labeling GMO products and are concerned about the negative connotation of such labeling by consumers.
Despite the intensity of the labeling debate, the future of HB 1 is uncertain. Unless the bill is taken up for discussion, it will likely die in committee. A similar bill proposed last year, also by Rep. Vasilinda, met this exact fate. Proposals in other states, such as California, have not fared much better. Meanwhile, the FDA is receiving increasing pressure to require GMO labeling as a mandate at the federal level.
column by DOUGLAS LOCKWOOD, III
BIO: A Winter Haven native, Doug received his B.S. degree in 1975 from Duke University and his law degree in 1979 from Stetson University. Doug currently practices in Peterson & Myers, P.A.’s Winter Haven office.[/emember_protected]