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Illinois considers GMO labelling

Supporters and opponents of state legislation to require labelling of genetically-engineered food will testify Tuesday at a State Senate subcommittee hearing in Chicago.

The subcommittee on food labelling will consider SB 1666, sponsored by subcommittee chair David Koehler (D-Springfield), on Tuesday, September 17 at 10:30 a.m. in Room C 600 of the Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle.

Testifying in support of Koehler’s bill will be Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist of Consumers Union; Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch; and UIC professors Ann Reisner and William Kling.

Opinion polls show popular support for labelling of genetically-engineered foods in the range of 90 percent.  Fifty developed nations require labelling, including every European Union member.  Connecticut and Maine also require it, and 26 other states are currently considering similar measures.

Two previous hearing showed strong support for the measure downstate, said Emily Carroll of Food and Water Watch.  She said farmers in Central Illinois complain of sharply increased herbicide usage, necessary to address “superweeds” which have developed resistance to herbicides which GE crops are bred to withstand.

“We’re seeing a huge ‘superweed’ problem” as biotech companies respond to “pesticides that are no longer working” by “wratcheting up the toxicity level” — including the recent promotion of 2,4-D, an Agent Orange component — said Emily Carroll, a local organizer for FWW.   Some of these herbicides have demonstrated human health risks, she said.

Opponents of the bill argue that it would raise food costs and give them impression that genetically-engineered foods are unsafe.

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