February 20, 2015

GMO Food labeling Bill introduced in Illinois

By Mark Wachtler

February 20, 2015. Peoria, IL. (ONN) Opponents of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in America’s food supply are rallying to the state of Illinois. While many would like to see an outright ban on GMO foods, a nationwide grassroots campaign has been waging for the past few years to simply require the labeling of GMO products in the grocery store so consumers can make their own choice. Time and again, that effort has been defeated by multi-million-dollar corporate ad campaigns. The next battlefield - Illinois.

IL State Sen. David Koehler, chief sponsor of Illinois’ GMO labeling legislation. Image courtesy of SenatorDaveKoehler.com.

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Food and Water Watch Illinois

Our good friends at Food and Water Watch Illinois alerted us to the effort to require the labeling of GMO foods in the state of Illinois. A Bill was introduced in the Illinois Senate at the start of this 2015-2016 legislative session that would do just that. Other states also have similar pending legislation including Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Florida.

“It was a big week for GMO labeling in Illinois,” Food and Water Watch’s Jessica Fujan told supporters yesterday, “The Bill to make labeling the law was introduced last Tuesday. Seven days later, we’d already made over 400 calls to Illinois Senators asking them to co-sponsor and show their support.”

The Illinois organizer for FWW goes on to explain how Illinois is taking a different approach than other states have in the past. In places like California, GMO labeling was placed on the ballot and voters decided. However, GMO opponents were horrified to see polls go from 90 percent support for the measure to just 48 percent after a last-minute multi-million-dollar TV ad campaign complete with Hollywood celebrities warning of the alleged dangers of labeling GMO foods.

In Illinois, Fujan says, “We need 30 votes in the Illinois Senate to pass the Bill. Co-sponsors help us show how much support a Bill has. Monsanto and the biotech giants think they can buy their way out of each and every ballot initiative. But in Illinois, we’re trying something different. We need our elected officials to stand up to these interests.”

SB 734 – Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act

The Bill introduced into the Illinois Senate by a Peoria Democrat and immediately co-sponsored by six additional Democrats appears well thought out. The initial text explains that the law would not require food manufacturers to identify which ingredients are made from genetically altered organisms and they don’t have to alter their ingredient labels. The law would simply require the manufacturer to somehow identify the product as containing GMO’s if some or all of any part of it is derived using genetic modification.

‘Any food offered for retail sale in this State is misbranded if it is entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering and that fact is not disclosed in a certain manner,’ Illinois SB 734 reads, ‘Provides that the Act shall not be construed to require either the listing or identification of any ingredient or ingredients that were genetically engineered, nor that the term “genetically engineered” be placed immediately preceding any common name or primary product descriptor of a food.’

Eliminating loopholes

Showing that the Bill’s sponsors are waging a serious effort, they’re anticipating attempts by multi-national food manufacturers to unethically skirt the requirement if it’s passed into law. One almost humorous example attempts to prevent manufacturers from, let’s say, satisfying the law by printing the GMO label in microscopic invisible fine print, on the inside wall of the semi-truck that delivered product, in an ancient Sumerian language that’s been dead for 4,000 years. To force food manufacturers to abide by the spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law, the proposed legislation goes so far as to explain in great detail what a “label” is.

‘”Label” means a display of written, printed, or graphic matter upon or connected to the immediate container or surface of any article,’ the Bill reads, ‘In order to meet the definition of “label”, any word, statement, or other information appearing on the label shall appear on the outside container or wrapper, if any, of the bulk, wholesale, or retail package of the article or be easily legible through the outside container or wrapper.’

The GMO labeling legislation also takes steps to protect both retailers and food manufacturers that unknowingly buy and resell GMO products without labeling them. In the case of retailers, they are not liable for the lack of a label on GMO foods so long as they acquire a sworn statement from the manufacturer that the products are non-GMO. For manufacturers, the Bill appears to exempt them from liability if they simply say they were unaware they were selling GMO products.

Currently, SB 734 has one main sponsor, IL State Sen. David Koehler (D-Peoria). Six fellow Democratic State Senators have added their names as co-sponsors of the Bill. They include IL Senators Jacqueline Collins, Terry Link, Julie Morrison, John Mulroe, Emil Jones, and Dan Kotowski.

Food and Water Watch has an online form where individuals can get more information and also send an email to their own State Senator asking them to co-sponsor the Bill.



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