NYS lawmakers fail to pass GMO labeling bill

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By Joe Moskowitz
A bill that would require the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms died in a committee in Albany Monday and never made it to the full New York State Assembly for a vote.

Several states, including Vermont and Connecticut and most western European Nations, have required labeling, but in much of the United States, including New York, it’s a different story.
A GMO is a genetically modified organism. The plant or animal’s genes are changed by mutation, deletion, or adding a gene from something else. GMOs can be used to make red roses turn blue and, more importantly some say, to help feed the world.

GMO crops can have bigger yields, be disease resistant, be able to withstand harsh environments and be resistant to pests and herbicides. The consensus of the scientific world is that they pose no greater threat to the food supply than conventionally developed foods.

Organizations such as Greenpeace point out that scientists have been wrong before. DDT and PCBs were once thought to be safe. And many who are concerned about our food supply question if there has been enough research done to determine the safety, and many who oppose GMOs feel that one company, Monsanto, is trying to dominate the world’s food supply.

Nicole Day Gray runs Margaretville-based Agri-foraging. She works with farmers all over upstate New York. She says the farmers have little choice. Many of the seeds and feeds they get are GMOs and she says people who are able to get organic non-GMO foods are fortunate, but most don’t have a choice.

Seeking improvements
Gray says she is now working with several farms to help them become organic, non-GMO, and she says she is also working with a large national company to try and determine if it is feasible to produce non–GMO organic meats on a large scale.

Deanna d’Angelo, who will soon open a restaurant and market in Arkville which will feature locally produced non-GMO food, says America is in the midst of a health crisis and blames it on what we eat. She says she refuses to serve genetically modified food. She says there is no need for it and we should find another way to produce and purchase food.

William Pieirvincenzi of Andes is a retired professor of biology and ecology at Long Island’s Nassau Community College. He says the potential for good from GMOs are enormous. He says that by injecting genes from legumes into corn we can create a complete protein that can end hunger for millions. We can potentially create “natural” pesticides which eliminate the need for chemicals. He says genetic engineering is what nature has been doing forever through the process of evolution.
However, unlike nature, we don’t control what is going to happen. He says the risks might also be huge. We don’t know what will happen if GMO crops mix with wild ones. We can’t guarantee that natural predators wouldn’t be wiped out, resulting in disaster. And he says there are social issues. Many farmers lost their businesses because they were forced to buy their seeds and other supplies from just one, profit-motivated company.

Piervincenzi will discuss the issue during an Andes Roundtable on June 5 at 7 p.m. at the Hunting Tavern.