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Food Labeling Bill Stirs Debate at MN State Capitol about Genetically Modified Products

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Genetic Engineering Page and our Millions Against Monsanto Page and our Minnesota News Page.

An emerging controversy over requiring labels for genetically engineered food arrived at the State Capitol on Thursday.

A few dozen proponents wearing green "Label GMOs" stickers listened to Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, describe "a bill about the basic right of consumers to know what's in their food."

But opponents said that mandatory labeling would be expensive and confusing, and isn't necessary. The stakes are especially high for large foodmakers and distributors such as Minnesota's Cargill, Hormel, General Mills and Land O'Lakes.

"There is no safety, health or regulatory reason for such a label," said Kelsey Johnson, director of state affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

At issue are genetically modified organisms (GMOs), produced by manipulating genes in the lab to create new varieties of plants, animals and organisms with desired characteristics, such as corn that will kill rootworm pests that eat it.

The bill would require the words "Produced with Genetic Engineering" to be placed on all packages of food with GMO ingredients that are offered for retail sale in Minnesota. Clark said it would apply to bread, cereal and most processed foods, since about 90 percent of the corn and soybeans grown in Minnesota and nationally comes from genetically engineered seeds.

The proposal is only about labeling, Clark said, and has nothing to do with banning the foods or beverages.

The informational hearing was held to "tee up the issue," said Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, chairman of the commerce and consumer protection committee. The bill won't get further action this legislative session, he said, but may return next year if there's enough interest.         
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