Genetically-modifed food labels sought

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — You may not know the food we eat is changing in many ways.

That was the topic of a press conference held by NYS Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes at the Merriweather Library in Buffalo on Thursday.

"I think that the FDA is supposed to have a responsibility that our food stream is safe and thus far they haven't done that," she said.

According to Paul Zittel of Amos, Zittel and Sons Farm in Eden, "I believe that in order to feed the people of the world, we need all the technology, safe technology that we can possible muster."

Peoples-Stokes added, "There's the optimum word: safe technology."

It's clear there is overwhelming pressure on farmers to produce more food for an ever-growing population, while being cost effective and keeping our food supply safe. For some, those things are not always going hand in hand.

"We adhere to the precautionary principle and that means that any new technology has to be carefully and thoroughly tested before it is commercialized," said Elizabeth Henderson of Peachwork Farm and the Genesee Valley Organic GSA and Natural Organic Farming Association.

Today, 93 percent of soy and 88 percent of corn products are genetically-altered. Sixty-one countries have labeling laws.

Recently, labeling practices were shot down in several states during the election, largely due to massive advertising and looming lawsuits by large food companies. But some of this genetic engineering is actually natural.

According to Dr. Margaret Smith from the Cornell University Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, "They are mostly things which have had a gene-derived from a bacteria that's natural in the soil, that makes the plant resist an herbicide."

Zittel concedes that the one vegetable on his farm that is genetically engineered "is one variety of sweet corn, which when we use it, we don't have to spray."

Though the FDA doesn't presently require disclosure, Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes is cosponsoring a state bill that will require labeling. There is also an effort to draft a farm bill at the federal level.

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Democrat Andrew Cuomo is Governor of New York.  Two Democrats represent NYS in the U.S. Senate, and NY has 29 representatives in the U.S. House: 21 Democrats and 8 Republicans.
 
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