State efforts continue
The highest profile state labeling effort, California’s Prop 37, was defeated in November 2012 by a margin of 51% to 49%. It would have required the state to monitor thousands of food labels for compliance and banned the sale of thousands of California grocery products unless they were repackaged, relabeled or made with non-biotech ingredients.
Connecticut has since passed legislation mandating the labeling of all retail foods containing biotech ingredients. Its October 1, 2014 implementation hinges on several other states adopting similar measures, The Vermont House has passed a similar bill, which the Vermont Senate will review in January. Maine may sign a mandatory law in 2014, which will take effect if neighboring states pass the same.
Most recently, voters in Washington state voted down the I-522 biotech-labeling initiative by a margin of 53% to 47%.A proposed initiative on Hawaii’s Big Island would prohibit biotech crop cultivation, and a similar ban in Jackson County, Ore., has qualified for a May 2014 ballot. Labeling bills have also been introduced in the Illinois House and Senate. Ron Moore, a soybean farmer from Roseville, Ill., testified last summer at the Illinois Senate Subcommittee on Food Labeling hearing.
“One of the outcomes of biotech labeling would be an increase in the number of families suffering from food insecurity and hunger,” he said. “It especially will be manifested in low-income urban and rural communities.”
More than 17 million farmers choose biotech crop varieties, and these “warning label” types of policies could discourage the use of a resource that brought farmers a $98.2 billion economic benefit from 1996 to 2011, BIO’s Batra claims.
Batra also warns that vandalism could hinder the use and advance of biotechnology. In Hawaii, vandals have already cut down papaya trees. Sugarbeet plots were destroyed in Oregon, and militant activists vandalized and destroyed Golden Rice field trials in The Philippines.
“In addition, the timing of regulatory approvals among major trading partners is not in synch, which can trigger trade disruptions,” Batra says, adding that the U.S. ag biotech regulatory system is beginning to falter from regulatory delays and unfounded lawsuits, shrinking investment in ag biotech and threatening America’s competitive edge globally.