Labeling bill raises modified food debate in Illinois
By SARA BURNETT
Over the past 16 years, biotechnology has helped Ron Moore grow crops that could survive drought, produce higher-quality grain to feed his livestock and yield sweet corn so plentiful his family has donated extras to the church and local food pantry.
“People have said it’s the best sweet corn they’ve ever eaten,” said Moore, 57, whose family farms a few thousand acres near the western Illinois community of Roseville.
But the same scientific advances that have so greatly altered the agriculture industry also have made some consumers nervous about what they are putting in their bodies and what long-term effects it could have.
Now that battle has now come to Moore’s home state.
Illinois Sen. David Koehler, a Democrat from Peoria, says those concerns are behind legislation he proposed that would require the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering — often called “GMOs,” or genetically modified organisms. Koehler, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, convened a panel of lawmakers for three hearings on the bill over the summer to try to educate the public and the committee on the issue.
Koehler’s bill would require farmers and manufacturers to label any food that’s available for retail sale in Illinois and that contains more than 1 percent of genetically engineered ingredients. The front or back of the package must clearly state “Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.” The law would be enforced by the Department of Public Health, and producers could be fined for not properly labeling their products.