On March 12, 2015, State Rep. Carol Alvarado filed HB 3499 to require mandatory labeling of foods sold in Texas that contain GMOs. Recent credible public polls show super-majorities support GMO labeling, regardless of gender, political affiliation, or age. AP-GfK shows 66% were in favor while 7% opposed, with equal support for labeling from Republicans and Democrats.
Why Texas Should Label Genetically Engineered Foods
GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are produced in laboratories. Unlike traditional plant hybridization and animal breeding, which tries to develop better varieties by selecting traits from the same species, GM techniques insert specific genes from any plant, animal or microorganism into the DNA of a different species to create new organisms that could not occur in nature.
GMOs are Widespread in our Food System. The majority of corn, soybeans, canola, cotton and sugar beets grown in this country are GMO. GMO ingredients are found in 70‐80% of all processed foods in the US, and can be difficult for a consumer to identify. Thus, labeling is necessary to allow the free market to function properly and allow people to make informed decisions.
Over 64 Countries Have Banned GMOs or Require Labeling of GMOs, including the European Union, Australia, China, New Zealand and Russia. American food manufacturers sell their products, either GMO-free or with GMO labels, all over the world. They can easily offer US citizens the same choice.
Economics and the Free Market. A true free market requires consumers to have truthful information on which to make decisions. Polls have consistently shown that Americans overwhelmingly want labels on GMO foods so that they can make informed choices which align with our personal and family values.7 An accurate, factual label is vital to making these choices. A consumer purchasing salmon expects to bring home salmon, not a GE salmon species spliced with eel-like species. Plain and simple. Misrepresenting a product is the same as is lying to the consumer. That is not the free market at work.
There is No Scientific Consensus on the Safety of GMOs. Contrary to industry-funded research, a growing body of international research has documented potential risks to human health. Controlled feeding studies have documented health effects of GMO diets on the immune system, gastrointestinal tract, liver and other organ systems in mice, rats and pigs. Further investigation of research findings by independent scientists have not been funded and carried out.1,2 These studies clearly demonstrate safety testing and regulation of GMO foods by the FDA and the EPA are inadequate and need to be strengthened.5 Opponents claim there is no hard evidence that GMOs are unsafe. But without labeling, we can’t associate health problems with people who ate them, because we don’t know who ate them.
It’s No Big Deal to Change the Label. When food producers change recipes or branding, they change the product label. We see this all the time – holiday labels or co-branding, for instance. It’s a cost of doing business. There are no facts to support the claim of costly labeling. Remember food producers already apply special labels to products sold in other nations.
GMO Farming Threatens our Environment. Over 80% of GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance, causing the use of toxic herbicides like Roundup to skyrocket. GMO pesticides have been found in the blood and urine of animals and humans. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has been linked to kidney and reproductive difficulties, allergic reactions and blocking mineral nutrients essential to health. 1,3,4 Now, superweeds and pests like the rootworms resistant to GMO-affiliated herbicides and pesticides have shown up and require applications of more toxic chemicals. 6
1 – European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), No scientific consensus on GMO safety, 21 October 2013.
2 – Jose Domingo and J. Bordonaba, A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants, 37 Environment International 734-742 (2011).
3 – Aziz Aris & Samuel Leblanc, Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reprod Toxicol.31 May 2011.
4 – Friends of The Earth Europe, Weed killer found in human urine across Europe, http://www.foeeurope.org/weed-killer-glyphosate-found‐human‐urine‐across‐Europe-130613.
5 – William Freese and David Schubert, Safety Testing and Regulation of Genetically Engineered Foods, 21 Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews, November 2004.
6 – Benbrook CM, Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the United States: The first thirteen years, The Organic Center, November 2009.
7 – Center for Food Safety, Polls on GMO Labeling, http://gefoodlabels.org/gmo-labeling/polls-on-gmo-labeling/.