Push for GMO labeling measure in Pa.

     A group gathered Monday in Harrisburg to urge Pennsylvania lawmakers to support mandatory labels on food altered through biotechnology. (Mary Wilson/for NewsWorks)

    A group gathered Monday in Harrisburg to urge Pennsylvania lawmakers to support mandatory labels on food altered through biotechnology. (Mary Wilson/for NewsWorks)

    A handful of advocates called on Pennsylvania lawmakers Monday to support mandatory labels on food altered through biotechnology.

    Genetically engineered foods, also called genetically modified organisms or GMOs, are often changed to contain enhanced nutritional value, fend off pests, or tolerate herbicides.

    Bills pending in the state House and Senate would require such products come with a label, alerting consumers of the GMOs within. Relevant committees have no plans to advance the proposals.

    A bipartisan group of lawmakers in support of the legislation said no one’s trying to scare people away from GMOs.

    “Let people know what they’re eating,” said Rep. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe.

    Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, introduced the Senate measure last year. He took pains to point out that his measure does not seek to limit the use of GMOs, only label them.

    “If you put a tomato in a can of soup, you have to say there’s a tomato in the can soup, on the ingredient labels,” said Leach. “If you put a GMO in a can of soup, you should have to say, there’s a GMO in this — factually accurate information.”

    The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau opposes mandatory labels, saying such a law could lead consumers to believe GMOs are unsafe. Grocers have raised the possibility that the proposed labels increase food-production costs.

    Last month, Vermont became the first state to set a date for required GMO labels. Legal challenges are expected from the food industry.

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