What’s in our food? As science has advanced and Americans at large have grown more conscious about what they choose to eat, consumers have pushed for more information from restaurants and grocers on the food they sell to the public. The latest development in this movement has led to the introduction of Proposition 105 to Colorado voters this fall. This legislation seeks to require produce and food products sold in Colorado to be labeled if they contain GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, in them. In theory, this bill would go a long way towards arming consumers with all the nutrition information they need. However, in practice this legislation is very problematic, and would take a toll on our economy while failing to fulfill its purpose of giving the public adequate information on the food they consume.
The core issue with Proposition 105 is that it is inconsistent; only a minority of the food on the market would be affected. According to a Citizen’s Initiative Review, 2/3 of food and beverage in the Colorado market would be exempt from GMO labeling. This would include all alcoholic beverages and food served in restaurants regardless of their ingredients, and meat and dairy products, even if the livestock were fed grains containing GMOs. These exemptions would free a significant portion of the market from its labeling requirements. If the goal of this bill is to arm consumers with more nutritional information, doesn’t exempting entire food groups defeat its purpose?
Furthermore, even the labeling this legislation seeks to mandate is insufficient. For example, according to Ballotpedia, Proposition 105 requires applicable foods to simply be labeled that they contain GMOs; the labels would not tell consumers what ingredients are GMOs or what percentage of the product was composed of GMO ingredients. These requirements are vague at best and would not provide consumers with the nutritional information they need to manage their diets.
This kind of vague, inconsistent legislation would bring little benefit to our market, especially when the cost of its enforcement is considered. Proposition 105 would saddle farmers and food distributors with cumbersome regulations, which would likely result in an increase in food prices on the market. According to a study by ECONorthwest, this could cost consumers up to $15 a year more per person to regulate this legislation, as well as cost the state up to $130,000 a year on its end of the deal. For legislation that fails to meet its label, these expected costs really aren’t worth it.
I’m not saying the need isn’t there. GMOs are a relatively new development in agricultural science, and there hasn’t been enough testing yet to assess their impact on our health. As I have argued in previous columns, consumers have a right to know what’s in the food they consume. Access to this information is an issue that needs to be dealt with, but Proposition 105 is not the right solution. Its regulation is inconsistent, its labeling requirements are unhelpful, and it is too much of a burden to place on agriculture when the legislation will not fulfill its purpose. While well-intentioned, it is clear this bill does not meet its label. Vote NO on Proposition 105 and table this problematic solution.
Collegian Senior Columnist Sean Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter by @seanskenn.