New efforts to label genetically modified foods surfaced in both New Mexico and Washington state this month, revisiting the idea that GM labeling may soon become a national concept.
The issue of GM labeling has long been debated, but it gained significant attention with California's Prop 37 ballot initiative last fall. After millions of dollars were spent fighting for and against the measure, which would have labeled foods with GM ingredients, it narrowly failed with 47% of voters voting yes and 53% voting no.
Now, a similar initiative was filed late last week with the Washington Secretary of State. Its sponsor, Chris McManus, is connected with the "Label It WA" group, which supports a campaign to "establish mandatory labeling of foods produced through genetic engineering," according to the group's website, www.labelitwa.org.
According the Secretary of State's blog, McManus submitted more than 19,000 petition sheets with an estimated 350,000 signatures in support of the measure, called I-522.
I-522 will now go to lawmakers, who begin their session on Jan. 14.
"Legislators have three options for each initiative," Washington Secretary of State blog author David Ammons wrote. "Pass it into law as is, let it go to the November ballot for a public vote, or send it and a legislative alternative to the ballot and let voters decide which, if either, they want to support. The typical initiative to the Legislature takes the second path, going on to the General Election ballot. One or both houses may hold public hearings."
On Wednesday, New Mexico state Senator Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, introduced Senate Bill 18, which would amend New Mexico food laws, rather than introduce a new law, to require labeling of food and commercial feed that contains genetically modified material.
Bill text says that a genetically modified material means a substance that has been produced, enhanced or otherwise modified through the use of recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid technology, genetic engineering or bioengineering.
New Mexico's legislature will begin meeting at noon on Jan. 15.