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Papayas in Hawaii have been genetically engineered to resist the ringspot virus. Photo: <a href="">USDA</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Papayas in Hawaii have been genetically engineered to resist the ringspot virus. Photo: USDA, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Big agribusiness fights GMO labeling in New York

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Advocates of labeling genetically modified crops (GMOs, or genetically modified organisms) recently made some progress in New York State. Last week, a labeling bill moved forward in the State Assembly committee system. Now, the bill's opponents in the agriculture industry are fighting back. This after Vermont passed the first GMO labeling law in the nation last week.

Food companies say modifying a crop's DNA is not dangerous. And the majority of scientific research supports that claim, according to a recent report from the Associated Press. But many people say consumers should still have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GMOs.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

Recently, the lead sponsor of New York’s GMO labeling bill went on public radio and said that relabeling foods wouldn’t cost much at all. Not so fast, says Rick Zimmerman. He’s the director of the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance, a lobbying group.

"If this bill becomes law, food costs in New York State are going to go up by $500 a year for a family of four. People need to understand that," he says.  

Zimmerman spoke yesterday on the public radio program Capitol Pressroom. That figure – a $500 annual increase in food expenses for a family of four – comes from a recent study by a Cornell professor, who had funding from the Council for Biotechnology Information. The Council includes big companies like Monsanto and DuPont, who sell GMO products.

Dean Norton, President of the New York Farm Bureau, says he gets that people are uneasy about big agribusiness. But he says genetic engineering is a process, not an ingredient, and labeling GMOs would be misleading and costly.

"People need to understand that their food is coming from the same sources it’s been coming from for generations. It’s coming from the farmers. It starts at the farm, and it goes to the processor, and on to the distribution center, to the supermarket," Norton says. "There’s nothing different that’s in their food that was in there twenty years ago."

Supporters of GMO labeling say big agribusiness is dragging its feet and resisting change. They say there is precedent across the industry, like labels that say whether orange juice is from concentrate. 

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