Farmers, their lobbyists and legislators met in the Capitol Thursday to talk about legislation that would affect one of Illinois’ biggest industries – agriculture.
One proposal “big ag” is fighting would change the way food is labeled in Illinois.
State Senator Dave Koehler says consumers ought to know whether processed food they buy contains genetically engineered ingredients.
Kevin Semlow lobbies for the Illinois Farm Bureau, and argues the issue should be handled at the federal level. He calls statehouse pushes for GMO labeling a "hodgepodge" approach.
Koehler, a Peoria Democrat, says with public opinion shifting, he believes labeling of GMO food is not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
“The public is really demanding more transparency. Not only in government, but in the products they buy," Koehler said. "This is really about being more aware, of having more information about what it is that you’re consuming."
Koehler chairs the Illinois Senate’s Agriculture Committee, and expects the bill to get a hearing sometime this spring.
Illinois Dept. of Agriculture Director Bob Flider says the Department does not have a position on the proposal, but says he believes his role to educate about the need for food worldwide and encourage a "rational debate":
Creates the Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act. Sets forth the General Assembly's findings and the purpose of the Act. Provides that beginning on the effective date of the Act, any food offered for retail sale in this State is misbranded if it is entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering and that fact is not disclosed in a certain manner. Provides that the Act shall not be construed to require either the listing or identification of any ingredient or ingredients that were genetically engineered, nor that the term "genetically engineered" be placed immediately preceding any common name or primary product descriptor of a food. Provides that until the effective date of the Act, any processed food that would be subject to the provision concerning the labeling of genetically engineered foods solely because it includes one or more materials produced by genetic engineering is not misbranded provided that the engineered materials in the aggregate do not account for more than a certain amount of the total weight of the processed food. Sets forth provisions concerning applicability and the right of action for violations, damages, and attorneys' fees. Provides that the Department of Public Health shall adopt rules necessary to implement the Act. Contains a severability provision.