NJ farmers need Sweeney's support on GMO labeling
Opponents of numerous state initiatives to label genetically modified foods have made unreasonable claims that these measures would have drastic economic impacts on food companies, retailers, farmers and consumers. This just isn’t true, and New Jersey leaders like Sen. Stephen Sweeney need to know the truth.
GMO labeling would actually help to protect markets for farmers and give consumers the information they want and deserve, without significant cost to food companies or retailers. Polls have consistently shown that the overwhelming majority of Americans are in favor of GE labeling; 93 percent of Americans called for labeling in a 2013 New York Times poll.
In the nearly 20 years that GMO crops have existed, their production has had devastating effects on the state of U.S. agriculture. Along with the introduction of GMO crops in the 1990s came the rapid buy-up of small seed companies by some of the largest biotechnology companies who have patents on the majority of GMO foods. The “Big 6” biotechnology companies (Monsanto, Dow, Dupont, Syngenta, Bayer and BASF) dominate the global seed supply, with the top four firms accounting for half of the entire market share for crop seed and biotechnology.
The bottom line is that consumers deserve the right to know what they’re buying and eating.
Naturally, with less competition, seed prices have risen sharply since the introduction of GMO crops, with GMO corn and soybeans costing nearly twice as much as their non-GE equivalents. Plus, the availability for “clean” seed for non-GMO conventional farmers and organic farmers is decreasing, making the cost of food production rise.
And because these companies have created chemical-based seed platforms, the application of herbicides in the United States has increased by 527 million pounds since the introduction of GMO crops. The use of herbicides on the same crops, year after year, has led to herbicide-resistant weeds plaguing about a third of U.S. corn, cotton and soy acres. As more herbicide-resistant weeds sprout up, farmers are using additional herbicides and tank-mixes to get rid of them, which is not only leading to herbicide loading in the environment and drift onto organic and non-GMO farms, but also higher levels of chemical residues in our food ultimately means higher food costs for the consumer.
Americans are becoming increasingly interested in the manner in which their food is produced, and a GMO label is vital for those who want to avoid contributing to the chemical-intensive, environmentally harmful methods that go into producing genetically engineered crops. The bottom line is that consumers deserve the right to know what they’re buying and eating.
New Jersey's Senate Bill 91 would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods, protecting both conventional and sustainable farmers from loss of sales and giving consumers the right to know the story behind the food they eat. Sweeney should do the right thing for New Jersey and ensure the Senate passes this important bill.
Jim Walsh, Food & Water Watch, and Camille Miller, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey