(Beyond Pesticides, February 7, 2013) Despite passing the Senate Public Affairs Committee last week after an overwhelmingly positive discussion, Senate Bill 18 to amend the New Mexico Food Act, which would require the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food and feed, was “deemed lost” after a majority of the Senate, in an extremely rare action, voted on the Senate Floor not to adopt the committee’s report. Under Senate rules, this stopped the bill in its tracks and cut off any further debate or public input.
“Even though SB 18 is dead this year, it’s clear that New Mexicans want and deserve a label that tells them whether or not their food has been genetically engineered,” said the bill’s author Senator Peter Wirth (D-25 Santa Fe). “I greatly appreciate the Public Affairs Committee’s feedback and discussion around the issue of labeling GE food, as well as Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez’s leadership on this issue. GE food labels are a right New Mexican consumers deserve and, while this defeat is a setback, this discussion will continue at the state and national level.”
The bill passed the Public Affairs Committee five to three with Senators Craig Brandt (R-Dist 40), Ron Griggs (R-Dist 34) and Gay Kernan (R-Dist. 42) voting against. In a roll call vote on the Senate Floor Thursday morning, 23 senators voted to reject the report submitted by Public Affairs Committee Chair Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Dist 12). The senators, traditionally supporters of peoples’ rights, who voted the report down were: President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen (D-Dist 38), John Arthur Smith (D-Dist 35), George Munoz (D-Dist 4) and three members of the Corporations Committee, Clemente Sanchez (D-Dist 30), Phil Griego (D-Dist 39), John Sapien (D-Dist 9).
“Food & Water Watch is disappointed that the Senate did not stand up for the rights of consumers to have basic information about their food this week, but we are not discouraged,” said Food & Water Watch’s New Mexico Organizer Eleanor Bravo. “Support for mandatory GE food labels has never been stronger. Just like nutrition and country-of-origin labels before, consumers have the basic right to choose for themselves whether or not to buy and eat GE foods. The time for transparency and truth about GE foods has come and we hope New Mexico’s congressional delegation will lead on this issue the next time around. We will continue to build broad public support for our right to know.”
In other states, local groups in Oregon have been working to ban GE crops in various counties, and in the state of Washington, the sponsor of labeling Initiative 522 submitted more than the required number of signatures that will require the legislature to consider its adoption or place it on the ballot. For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.
Ms. Bravo will be speaking at Beyond Pesticides’ 31st Annual Pesticide Forum to discuss the labeling efforts in New Mexico and strategies for moving forward. Beyond Pesticides is collaborating with local groups, including co-sponsor group Food and Water Watch- NM, to bring together top scientists with local and national activists and concerned citizens to share information on the issues local communities are facing, craft solutions, and catalyze networks to manifest positive health and environmental policy and change. Sustainable Families, Farms and Food: Resilient communities through organic practices will be held April 5-6, 2013 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. For more information and to register, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.