top
US
US
Newswire
Calendar
Features
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: U.S. | Government & Elections
States Introduce Numerous Bills to Regulate Genetically Modified Foods
by Britt Bailey
Tuesday Mar 13th, 2007 8:01 PM
Following a two-year span where the corporate farming sector lobbied heavily in support of state bills aimed at keeping local governments from regulating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), 2007 state legislatures are now filled with bills confirming farmer and consumer concerns about such foods and crops.
Following a two-year span where the corporate farming sector lobbied heavily in support of state bills aimed at keeping local governments from regulating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), 2007 state legislatures are now filled with bills confirming farmer and consumer concerns about such foods and crops. It has been a decade since multinational corporations began blanketing the planet with their patented varieties of genetically modified seed. With little government oversight, poll after poll has shown that consumers would like to see greater supervision of genetic engineering including all-out limitations on their cultivation.
From late 2004-2006, nearly twenty state legislatures attempted to subdue the growing concern surrounding genetically modified organisms. In the wake of four California counties and numerous New England towns passing local measures restricting the growing of genetically engineered foods, states began passing “preemption” laws removing the ability of local governments to regulate seeds and plants. Nearly every state hearing on the preemption bills erupted into an emotional discourse on the specific impacts of growing GMOs and the toll which this mode of farming exacts on the environment and public health. Inadequate federal oversight, economic impacts, risks to organic practices, lack of legal liability in the event of contamination, need for public notification, potential health concerns, and harm to natural resources were all listed as reasons why local communities should be able to decide whether genetically modified foods should or should not be grown. Thus far, Missouri is the only state that seems to be shoving the concerns related to genetic engineering under the rug. Unlike prior years where state preemption bills had company, Missouri’s SB364 is the only bill in 2007 introduced to remove local authority over anything related to farming.
Legislators seem to be catching on to the wishes of the people. Already in 2007, state capitols are filled with bills aimed at protecting small family farming systems and consumers from the impacts of genetically modified foods. Perhaps it is a combination of continued public outcry along with the rice contamination fiasco that occurred in August 2006 (whereby an unapproved genetically engineered rice variety caused billions of dollars of damage to farmers throughout the United States) that is giving legislators enough bravado to defy the wishes of the multinational corporate agriculture industry. Under current US law, the makers of the genetically modified crops bear no responsibility for damages caused when the crops spread through environmental or human action. Now, four states are carrying bills making the agricultural biotechnology industry liable in the event another contamination occurs. Three states are hearing bills calling for a moratorium on food crops genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals. Illinois and Tennessee are calling for labeling of foods derived from genetically engineered crops. Five states, California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, and South Dakota, are calling for notification systems in which genetically modified foods become a part of the public record.
After ten years of national public debate over the effects of commercializing genetically modified organisms, we do seem to be turning a regulatory corner. Perhaps State legislators have recognized that federal regulations are inadequate to protect their state farming interests. Perhaps they have recognized that the regulatory offices of Monsanto and Dow are simply too close to the offices of the USDA, FDA, and Congress. As states continue to introduce bills protective of the impacts arising from growing genetically modified organisms, will the federal government act next to preempt the states? All of this begs the question, where is the oversight of farming and agriculture best deliberated—at the local, state, or national level? Given the federal governments track record on the issue, we may want keep it local and allow communities and farmers to decide how best to regulate their soils and foods.


To stay up to date on GMO bills introduced in states across the United States, see Environmental Commons’ “Food Democracy Tracker,” http://environmentalcommons.org/tracker.html


Britt Bailey is the Director of Environmental Commons located in Gualala, CA. She is the co-author of “Against the Grain: Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food” and Senior Editor of “Engineering the Farm: The Social and Ethical Aspects of Agricultural Biotechnology.”

We are 100% volunteer and depend on your participation to sustain our efforts!

Donate

donate now

$ 97.00 donated
in the past month

Get Involved

If you'd like to help with maintaining or developing the website, contact us.

Publish

Publish your stories and upcoming events on Indybay.

IMC Network