Genetic Engineered Food Labeling Legislation Has First Public Hearing

“Freedom of choice of what I eat and drink is a bedrock, precious freedom.”

That was part of the testimony Herman Brockman, a geneticist and professor emeritus at Illinois State University, delivered Thursday at a hearing regarding legislation that would require genetically engineered food be labeled in Illinois.

Brockman was one of about 200 proponents of labeling genetically engineered food that attended the first Illinois Senate subcommittee on food labeling in Normal.

The committee meeting was the first of three that are meant to get input on Senate Bill 1666, which is sponsored by Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance is a proponent of labeling and giving consumers a choice between genetically engineered food and non-genetically engineered food.

“Poll after poll has shown that consumers want to see labeling and that includes farmers themselves. And when I say farmers, I don’t just mean organic or specialty crop farmers. We have farmers that are members that are conventional non-organic commodity producers that also support labeling,” Wes King, ISA interim executive director, told the committee Thursday.

Most of the opponents of the legislation didn’t come out specifically against labeling genetically engineered food, rather they argued that if labeling is done, it should be done at a federal level. Koehler remarked that he too would like to see something done federally, but he is a state senator so he is working to get a state law passed.

The general public wasn’t given the opportunity to give oral testimony at the hearing, but anyone interested in giving their opinion on the legislation can submit it by mailing it to Sen. Dave Koehler, Illinois State Capitol, Springfield IL, 62706.

Two more hearings are scheduled, the first on Aug. 7 from noon to 2 pm at Southern Illinois University’s Carbondale campus, the other in Chicago in mid-September. No votes on the actual legislation will be taken at any of the hearings.