ST. LOUIS — A bill that would require labeling on all foods
made from genetically modified crops is among legislation the Illinois Farm
Bureau is keeping a close eye on.
House Bill 3085 was introduced earlier this year by
Democratic Rep. Deborah Mell, who has since resigned and now serves as a Chicago
alderman. It has a number of co-sponsors in the House.
The bill would, for example, identify as a GMO product a
bottle of soybean oil processed from Roundup Ready or LibertyLink beans.
Illinois Farm Bureau is among organizations actively opposing the bill and has
provided experts to testify at public hearings.
Bill Bodine, associate director of state legislation with
the Illinois Farm Bureau, discussed the GMO bill and other ongoing legislation
while addressing members of the St. Louis AgriBusiness Club.
“Oftentimes it is described as a right to know. But if you
read some of the testimony that is presented, when you read some of the parts of
the legislation, it’s a direct attack on the safety of biotechnology,” he said.
“These are very important tools for our farmers, as you well know. These are
important tools to help us be more sustainable, to help reduce the use of
Language in the bill includes statements questioning the
safety of genetically modified crops and claiming that their use in agriculture
harms the environment.
“The future of this legislation is unsure. It’s something to
keep an eye on,” Bodine said. “We don’t need to be driving up food costs with
another label requirement for our consumers.”
In addition to the Illinois bill, there is an initiative at
the federal level to introduce a labeling requirement. Illinois Farm Bureau is
among organizations tracking the issue at the state and federal level.
“We do have a very active environmental group — Food and
Water Watch — that has taken this on as their pet cause,” Bodine said. “They
have an active group in Illinois. Other environmental groups have
Bodine also provided a recap of Illinois legislative
progress. Washington politicians — bottom feeders, according to abysmal approval
ratings — may take some comfort knowing that their Illinois counterparts may be
even more reviled.
“There are few places that are not as successful as
Washington, and one of them may be Springfield,” Bodine said.
Still, there is some room for hope. Despite a government
that seems to be careening out of control due to political infighting and
economic problems, state legislators can point to some movement on issues
affecting farmers and other rural residents.
Those include model legislation on the regulation of
hydraulic fracturing, and a bill authorizing concealed carry permits.
Though the gun legislation was driven by a court ruling, the
Legislature worked in a bipartisan manner to draft the bill.
“Contrary to popular belief, something was actually
accomplished in Illinois,” Bodine said. That’s a pretty big accomplishment of
the General Assembly.”
It also succeeded in passing legislation regulating
hydraulic fracturing, the extraction of oil and natural gas through a process of
injecting chemicals and water deep into the ground to force out the natural
resources. That legislation has been nearly praised across the nation as a model
to be followed.
“We were involved heavily in negotiations, simply because of
its impact on rural areas and its impact on landowners and farmers,” Bodine
said. “That negotiating effort went on for almost a year. It was supported by
environmental groups and others.”