Editor's Note: This is the Field Notes column published in the June-July 2013 issue of The Grower's Citrus + Vegetable Magazine.
Voters in California last fall defeated Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of all foods that contained genetically engineered ingredients or were genetically engineered raw products.
The defeat came despite a multi-million-dollar campaign waged by proponents.
The battle has since moved up the coast to Washington State, where the Legislature is mulling a similar labeling bill. Most likely, the measure will be put before the voters in 2014.
You may point your finger at the liberal West Coast as the reason why labeling proposals have gone as far as they have. You may even think, “This could never happen in Florida.” But it did.
House Bill 1233 and its sister legislation, Senate Bill 1728, were introduced into the Florida Legislature earlier this year and would have required labeling of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, similar to the California and Washington proposals.
HB 1233 was introduced by Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and co-sponsors Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, and Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. SB 1728 was introduced by Maria Sachs, D-Del Ray.
Fortunately, neither bill made it to a hearing, so they essentially died. They could have been revived if each house had voted with a two-thirds majority to bring them up for late consideration.
But they didn’t. No sooner had the bills died than Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced a federal bill dubbed the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act. It has 12 co-sponsors in the Senate and 20 in the House.
If passed, the bill would define genetically engineered foods and require labeling of foods that meet those definitions. It would also require mandatory labeling of processed products that contained any GMO ingredients.
In addition to a host of field crops, such as corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat, the list of commercial GMOs includes papayas and some varieties of sweet corn, zucchinis and summer squash. Boxer says she isn’t passing judgment on GMO crops.
Instead, she says she is responding to constituents who want the information to help them decide whether to eat genetically modified foods.
I had thought that common sense had prevailed when the Florida Legislature let the state GMO labeling bills die.
I guess I thought too soon.