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Organic Consumers Association

City Councilor Tackles Issue of GMO Crops, Labels

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our New Mexico News page.

State legislators rejected a proposal from a Santa Fe lawmaker earlier in the session that called for labeling of genetically modified food, but Santa Fe City Councilor Patti Bushee said she's ready to push the issue at the local level.

While the food-labeling bill introduced by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, died at the committee level, Bushee said she believes Santa Fe is supportive of such laws.

Bushee said she plans to introduce a resolution at Wednesday night's City Council meeting, asking state and federal officials to consider broad regulations of genetically engineered products. She said she also plans to work with County Commissioners Kathy Holian and Miguel Chavez to ban the planting of genetically engineered crops at commercial farms in the city and county. And she is considering proposing a local rule to require labels on food that contains genetically modified ingredients.

A city rule on food labels would likely generate the most controversy, she said, which is why she's not ready to circulate it yet.

"There are so many parts to it. You have to identify the foods and be able to enforce it," she said Tuesday. "I have a bill already written, but I feel it would be precipitous to introduce it without having a look at the overall cost and potential legal challenges and the regulatory side, which I don't think any other municipality has attempted to do."

Bushee said that while she understands it will be difficult for the city to figure out how to implement a food-labeling law, she doesn't put much stock in the argument that local governments should stay out of the debate.

"If it weren't being suppressed as a discussion by corporations like Monsanto, who are willing to legally challenge at any turn, I think you would start to see this happen all over the United States, and I think it should happen," she said. "It would be ideal to just have the foods labeled as they hit the shelves, but since that effort is not happening at the federal level and prematurely died at the state level, I think it is important to try to keep the issue alive."

Wirth argued before fellow senators that his bill would give New Mexicans information to help make choices about what they want to eat and spend their money on. Opponents of the effort said it would drive up the cost of food and that some corporate manufacturers might choose to stop offering products in the state.

Area residents and out-of-town organizers involved with an advocacy group called Food and Water Watch have lobbied for local rules about genetically engineered food products. The nonprofit, founded by Ralph Nader and now a nationwide group with state chapters, will now turn its attention to local legislation, said Eleanor Bravo, a 30-year resident of New Mexico who is state organizer for Food and Water Watch here and in Texas and Oklahoma.


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