Guest opinion: U.S. Senate should stop Vermont GMO law
Colorado agriculture might soon be forced to turn back the clock on decades of progress — thanks to a Vermont law taking effect July 1 — unless the U.S. Senate steps in and acts.
Agriculture contributes $40 billion to our state’s economy every year, and in recent decades, farmers and ranchers have used an advancement called biotechnology, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), to help them achieve such levels of beneficial production.
Seeds developed through biotechnology offer a plethora of benefits, such as less irrigation, less pesticide use, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and higher crop yields that make food more affordable.
Unfortunately, as is common in the internet age, a few committed activists spread misinformation about this technology, working to drive it from the marketplace, using mandatory labeling laws for foods made with GMOs.
In 2014, Colorado residents voted against such a proposal by a wide margin. Yet Vermont is set to implement a mandatory labeling law in July that would impact us here in the Centennial State.
We currently have a national food chain that allows products to move between states. National food-labeling standards enable this system to operate smoothly, keeping commerce flowing and food prices affordable.
Farmers and food companies are not set up to navigate a patchwork of differing state laws, and such changes would lead to price hikes at the grocery store.
Food companies are also concerned that on-pack labeling would mislead consumers, causing them to believe foods bearing a GMO label should be avoided even though there’s no scientific justification warranting that belief.
The safety of GMOs is well-documented, and supported by health and scientific authorities covering the globe, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Medical Association, European Food Safety Authority, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and World Health Organization.
Each GM seed variety takes an average $136 million and 13 years to bring to market because of the safety studies and regulatory approval processes necessary.
In response to what was described as an information gap at the time, Italian scientists in 2013 analyzed 1,783 studies around the world, spanning the previous decade, regarding the safety and environmental impacts of GMOs. They couldn’t find a single credible example demonstrating that GMOs pose harm to humans or animals.
And in 2015, a massive, peer-reviewed, food-safety study — involving 4 billion farm animals fed GM foods and 4 billion animals fed non-GM foods — showed no differences in animal health, growth or fertility. No quantifiable traces of GM components were detected in milk, meat and eggs following the animals’ consumption of GM foods.
So, with that much science backing the safety of GMOs, why go the route of mandatorily labeling GM foods, potentially stigmatizing this beneficial technology, while also raising food prices for consumers?
Non-GM products already exist, and are labeled as such, for those who don’t GMOs in their food.
Colorado voters shouldn’t pay the price because Vermont passed a law that threatens to turn the entire country’s food system on its head.
Time is running out.
The House of Representatives passed a bill last July that would pre-empt Vermont’s law, but the Senate has stalled the debate.
With only a few weeks left to act, the Senate has an opportunity to iron out a solution that creates a consistent, national-labeling standard while preventing the stigmatizing effects of on-pack disclosure.
Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner should lend their support to a bipartisan approach that protects scientific progress, the agricultural community and family budgets.
Mark Sponsler is the executive director of the Colorado Corn Growers Association, based in Greeley.
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