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CONSUMERS & REGULATION: Legislation to call for labeling of genetically engineered foods in Florida (USA)





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TITLE:   LEGISLATION TO CALL FOR LABELING OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS

SOURCE:  Palm Beach Post, USA

AUTHOR:  Susan Salisbury

URL:     http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/business/legislation-to-call-for-labeling-of-genetically-en/nWd3G/

DATE:    01.03.2013

SUMMARY: "Florida consumers have the right to know whether the foods they purchase are genetically engineered, says a group of more than 200 organizations calling for a labeling requirement. Monday, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, plans to introduce a bill seeking the labeling of GE agricultural commodities and processed foods that contain GE ingredients and are sold in Florida stores. GE, or genetically modified, crops are engineered by transferring genetic material from one organism into another to create specific traits, such as enabling a plant to produce its own pesticide to repel insects, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

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LEGISLATION TO CALL FOR LABELING OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS

Florida consumers have the right to know whether the foods they purchase are genetically engineered, says a group of more than 200 organizations calling for a labeling requirement.

Monday, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, plans to introduce a bill seeking the labeling of GE agricultural commodities and processed foods that contain GE ingredients and are sold in Florida stores.

GE, or genetically modified, crops are engineered by transferring genetic material from one organism into another to create specific traits, such as enabling a plant to produce its own pesticide to repel insects, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

There is no federal requirement that labels disclose whether a food is genetically engineered or modified.

Vasilinda said Friday that she has received more than 1,700 signatures on post cards supporting the initiative.

?They were very, very persistent and passionate. It is absolutely amazing. I had elders, students, hippies, organic food people, mothers with young children,? Vasilinda said.

Vasilinda found that other legislators said, while they liked the idea, they were reluctant to get involved. She also anticipates push-back from the food industry and others.

Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, who will co-sponsor the bill, said Friday, ?I think it is very important that the consumers out there who purchase food have an idea of what they are putting into their body. Not only do you want to know if a tomato or piece of corn has DNA from a flounder, I would like to know if a product has a genetic twist.?

Pafford said one concern is that a food could have been modified in a way that is not in keeping with kosher laws.

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, will sponsor the bill in the Senate, with co-sponsor Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami.

Roughly 8,000 Floridians have signed a petition supporting labeling, said Susan Lerner, Palm Beach County coordinator for Food & Water Watch?s ?Let Me Decide? campaign.

?If you just ask anybody, those who know about it want all foods to be labeled because there are no long-term studies that prove that genetically engineered foods are safe for human consumption,? Lerner said.

The ?Let Me Decide? campaign includes an effort in Florida and 11 other states to pass a labeling laws. There are also similar campaigns in at least 10 other states, said Anna Ghosh, communications director for Food & Water Watch.

Last year a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required the labeling in California failed.

?Monsanto and all of the big food companies threw about $46 million into advertising and confused the public,? Lerner said.

National surveys have found 92 percent of Americans support the labeling. More than 50 countries require labeling of GE foods or have completely banned them.

About 70 percent of processed foods contain ingredients that have been genetically engineered.