Colorado GMO label battle pit chefs against farmers

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With the Nov. 4, 2014, ballot measure, Colorado is at the forefront of a fierce food fight raging across the nation: whether or not to label foods made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, so consumers can easily see if the food they buy is a product of genetic engineering.

Supporters of the Colorado measure — including Natural Grocers and Eco-Justice Ministries — say mandatory labeling would create transparency for consumers, allowing them to choose what they want to serve at their family tables.

But opponents — including the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Rocky Mountain Agribusiness Association — say the measure would cost Colorado taxpayers millions of dollars, increase grocery costs for families, and create expensive new bureaucratic requirements that would hurt the state’s farmers.

“A lot of chefs are trying to practice a more natural and organic philosophy in cooking food,” said Michael Scott, lead chef instructor at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder. “If I have ingredients that I can’t find out are GMO produced or not, I can’t make a proper decision whether to use them or not.”

But many local farmers argue that the measure is unnecessary. They say there are already two food labels that identify foods without GMOs: the USDA Organic label and the Non-GMO Project verified seal.

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“It would be a nightmare for me,” said Nathan Weathers. At his family farm in Yuma County, they grow two kinds of corn — GMO corn and popcorn that has not been genetically modified. They use the same combine to harvest both crops. Despite extensive cleaning of the equipment between those harvests, he says, if even a tiny bit of GMO corn ends up in a load of non-GMO corn, he won’t be able to sell it. “There’s nothing that I could do with that load,” he said.

Paul Schlagel, a fourth-generation farmer in Longmont, says that genetically engineered seeds have allowed farmers to reduce their use of herbicides and increased their yield by 40 percent.

“After processing, sugar from genetically engineered sugar beets is molecularly the same as organic sugar, and our sugar in Colorado would be stigmatized by the label,” he said.

Read full, original article:
GMO labeling measure in Colorado triggers heated debate

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