Illinois Senate Introduces Legislation to Label Genetically Engineered Foods
New Bill Could Expose Previously Hidden Genetically Engineered Ingredients in our Food
Springfield, Ill. – Today, Senator Dave Koehler introduced SB 1666, a bill that would require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods in Illinois. The legislation was drafted with the support of consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch and is strongly supported by many national and local organizations and individuals including food cooperatives, organic farmers, environmentalists and food justice proponents.
“SB 1666 presents a tremendous opportunity to improve research and expand our understanding of GE crops and foods,” said Jessica Fujan, Illinois organizer for Food & Water Watch. “Labeling will give us the data we need to draw solid conclusions about GE foods, and it will give consumers the ability to make fully informed decisions about what we are eating and feeding our families. Right now, the companies that stand to profit from genetic engineering are making those decisions for us.”
If passed, SB 1666 would require labeling for all foods containing more than one percent GE ingredients. This includes plants altered in a laboratory with foreign genetic material to create novel genetic combinations and exhibit traits that do not occur in nature. Since most processed foods contain some derivative of GE corn, soybean or cotton, they would require labeling under this law.
Although health risks associated with eating GE products are not fully understood, these altered foods have become pervasive within our food system since they first became available in 1996. Companies submit their own safety testing data and independent research is limited because biotechnology companies prohibit cultivation for research purposes.
Securing labeling of GE foods is a key priority for groups such as the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council, which represents urban and rural farmers and individuals advocating for sustainable growing practices. “The farmers and non-farmers among us are universally supportive of GE labeling. We work hard to grow good food and serve our families food that has not been genetically engineered. It’s our right as citizens to know what is in our food. In a democracy, corporations should not have special privileges that make it difficult for the average consumer to have transparency in what they consume,” said Erika Allen, urban farmer for Growing Power and President of the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council.
Labeling GE foods is not a novel idea. The European Union specifically addresses the new properties and risks of biotech crops, requiring all food, animal feed and processed products with GE content to bear labels. In fact, the EU is among nearly 50 developed countries that require the GE products they import from the U.S. to be labeled. Furthermore, a 2012 Mellman Group Study showed that 91 percent of U.S. voters favored having the U.S. Food and Drug Administration require labels on GE foods and ingredients.
SB 1666 will be considered by the Legislature over the coming months and can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/VV9qZp
Contact: Emily Carroll, Food & Water Watch, ecarroll(at)fwwatch(dot)org, 773-796-6086