Coalition presses N.J. to be first state to label genetically engineered food

    A coalition of consumer and environmental groups is urging New Jersey to become the first state to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

    About 80 percent of corn and soybean crops are now grown with genetically modified seeds, but consumers aren’t aware that’s what they’re eating, said Stephanie Harris with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey.

    “The health risks today are not entirely known, and many consumers feel that they do not want to be the guinea pigs of the industry in order to find out, 20 years down the road, what the health risks are,” she said.

    Advocates say requiring genetically altered foods to be labeled would allow consumers to decide whether to buy them as well as influencing the industry to produce more crops that aren’t bio-engineered.

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    If consumers don’t want to buy the altered foods, “producers are going to start growing different products,” said Jim Walsh of Food and Water Watch.

    “Right now, consumers have no way of knowing what products they’re eating and consuming, whether they’ve been genetically engineered or not,” Walsh said. “This will simply give consumers a choice in that matter, and suppliers will meet demand.”

    The coalition won’t have any trouble convincing Assemblywoman Linda Stender, D-Union.

    One of the sponsors of a bill that would require the labeling of all genetically modified food, she says consumers should be able to make an informed decision about whether to buy those foods.

    “We know that the Monsantos and the giant agricultural firms are vehemently opposed — because of their profit centers — to this,” Stender said.

    The New Jersey Food Council, which represents retailers, maintains genetically modified foods are safe, and the labeling requirement would add hundreds of dollars to family grocery bills.

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