Quantcast

We have the right to know what is in our food

Opinion-Editorial

By COUNCIL MEMBER ANDY KING | 5/15/2014, 2:52 p.m.

We, as New Yorkers, are a step closer to achieving our right to know what is in all of the food that we eat. 

Recently, the New York state Assembly’s Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee endorsed a measure that would require genetically modified organisms (GMO) labels on food. (A vote of the full Assembly has not been scheduled.)

The bill would apply to genetically engineered fruits and vegetables and processed foods.

The biotech industry has no bone in this dog fight. Without compromise, it is our right to know what is in the food that’s placed on the shelves. It’s our civil right to know how the food is manufactured.

I applaud Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin for the May 8 signing of the first statewide law to require labeling on GMO foods. It’s an historic victory, and I urged my colleagues in New York state government to follow suit.

We, my colleagues in the City Council, introduced Resolution 119, which calls on the New York Legislature to pass and the governor to sign A.3525-A/S.3835-A, “which would require the labeling of food or food products that contain genetically modified material or were produced using genetically modified material.”

Authored by Council Members Jumaane Williams, Alan Maisel, Ben Kallos, Rafael Espinal, Rosie Mendez and Karen Koslowitz, I and other council members have signed onto this bill, which has the support of many New Yorkers. 

We’ve been modifying our foods for years by inserting hormones and genes and spraying pesticides to change the characteristics of food. Most corn, soy, rice, milk and salmon consumed today are genetically modified. We’ve known this for years, but concerns remain about the safety of GMO food for human consumption and the environment.

If passed, the state bill sponsored by Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal and state Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle would address this public concern by requiring genetically modified foods and foods made using genetically modified materials to be labeled as such. Failure to comply with the labeling requirements mandated could result in a misdemeanor charge.

This is just the beginning. Moving forward, the emphasis should be on educating the public about GMO foods, including how they are made, the reason for it and the science behind it. We should make companies accountable for providing this information.

Sixty-four countries, including the entire European Union, Japan, Australia, Russia and China, require food containing genetically modified material to be labeled as such.

There’s nothing wrong with labeling. Transparency in food manufacturing brings us into the 21th century. Congratulations to Vermont for leading the charge. There’s no doubt in my mind that New York will follow suit, as well as many other states across the nation, because it is our right to know what is in our food.

Council Member Andy King represents the 12th City Council District of the Bronx. He is the co-chair of the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.