With friends like Illinois state Sen. David Koehler, who
needs enemies? Koehler, D-Peoria, is the sponsor of SB1666, a bill calling for
labeling of foods originating from genetically modified plants.
No surprise in the left-leaning Illinois Legislature. This
isn’t the first place GMO products have been targeted, and it won’t be the
But did I mention that Koehler also is chairman of the
Senate ag committee? That seat doesn’t seem like the most appropriate place to
launch a bill that is opposed by most of the ag community and may have negative
consequences for farmers.
Bill Bodine, associate director for state legislation with
Illinois Farm Bureau, discussed the bill and other political activities while
speaking at a recent meeting of the St. Louis AgriBusiness Club.
In a story I wrote about the topic, I inadvertently listed
House Bill 3085, which also is a GMO labeling bill. But Bodine later informed me
that the Senate bill is the one getting the most attention.
Anyway, the labeling movement has gotten some traction
recently, though there have been some notable setbacks for labeling proponents.
Perhaps surprisingly, California voters rejected Proposition 37, which mandated
The effects of labeling — negative and positive — are
uncertain. But companies such as Monsanto must believe it would have a
deleterious effect on agriculture, or at least its business.
It was among ag and food retailers that dumped $44 million
into California in the successful effort to defeat the proposition at the ballot
Prop 37 garnered much support among the usual suspects. A
number of self-aggrandizing Hollywood types and prominent “food
environmentalists” such as Michael Pollan did their best to convince voters that
foods containing GMO components are only slightly less dangerous than sarin gas
and should be labeled, if not outlawed completely.
Koehler’s sin is not only that as the ag committee chairman
he is pushing a bill that is nearly universally opposed by the ag community.
Who knows? Labeling may not be the end of the world. The
thing that tends to raise my cockles is the language of the bill.
Included in the bill’s synopsis are comments such as this:
“The genetic engineering of plants and animals often causes unintended
consequences. The results are not always predictable or controllable.”
It goes on to say that genetic engineering may produce
results that lead to adverse health or environmental consequences.
This would not be Illinois’ first foray into labeling of ag
products. A number of years ago the Legislature passed a bill requiring
unpasteurized apple cider processed in the state to be labeled as such.
And unless I missed it, that has caused nary a ripple. Of
course, comparing pasteurized cider to GMO-based foods is akin to comparing,
well, apples and oranges.
But some of the wording of SB1666 bill, as noted, tends to
expose the sponsor’s ulterior motives. It seems obvious to me that labeling
isn’t the end goal, but just a step in that direction.
And it is being pushed by someone who is supposed to be on
the farmers’ side.