NEW YORK – A bill requiring the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, has cleared its first hurdle in the state Assembly. Despite serious opposition from retailers and agricultural industries, the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection approved the measure Tuesday. 

Alex Beauchamp, northeast region director at Food & Water Watch, believes the swift passage of the bill shows the strength of the grassroots movement calling for mandatory labeling.

"If enough people take action, if enough people are engaged in the process you can make progress even in the face of enormous spending from the other side," says Beauchamp. "From the junk food industry and their allies at Monsanto."

Opponents of the bill say there is no proof that GMO products are harmful to human health.

But Beauchamp says there have been no long-term studies of the impacts on human health and he points out that modifying crops to withstand herbicides encourages the use of chemicals that have potential consequences for consumers as well.

"Including Monsanto's Roundup which is incredibly toxic not only for human health, and the World Health Organization has deemed it a probable carcinogen, but it also poses huge environmental dangers to our rivers, to our streams," says Beauchamp.

The food industry also claims that required labeling will add to the cost of foods. 

But Beauchamp points out that Campbell's Soup has announced its intention to voluntarily include GMO labeling on its products.

"Importantly they not only cited that 90 percent of Americans want GMO labeling and so they're going to give their consumers what they want," he says. "But they also explicitly said that they're not going to raise costs."

Beauchamp believes the bill has enough support to pass if the leadership in both houses of the legislature allow it to come up for a vote.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service – NY

Originally Published: Public News Service