Colorado group seeks mandatory labeling of genetically modified food

A Colorado issue committee seeks to place a measure on the November 2014 ballot to require labeling of genetically modified foods.

State officials will convene Wednesday to decide whether to let Right to Know Colorado GMO in Arvada begin gathering signatures for a ballot initiative petition. Registered as an issue committee with the state, the group must gather 86,105 signatures, which the state must verify by early August for the measure to appear on the ballot. If successful, voters would decide whether to approve the measure in the November 2014 election.

If voted into law, the Colorado Right to Know Act would require food manufacturers or distributors to label genetically modified food starting in 2016, according to documents filed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

Formed in March by Tryna Cooper and her husband, Larry Cooper, the organization reported about $1,500 cash on hand, according to a finance report filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

Genetically modified crops such as corn and sugar beets that contain properties to withstand insecticide and eradicate pests are commonly grown in Northern Colorado. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not track its use in Colorado, but it’s estimated that at least half of corn grown in the region is genetically modified.

Critics argue that the long-term health effects of genetically modified food consumption by humans and animals are unknown. The industry contends that genetically modified foods are safe and that labeling would be expensive.

Companies should have to label genetically modified food for health and safety reasons, said Tryna Cooper, co-chair of Right to Know Colorado. Several other countries require labeling or have banned genetically modified foods.

“The federal government doesn’t seem to be moving on this,” she said. The U.S. is “a little bit behind the eight ball.”

Similar ballot measures have failed in states such as California and Washington, but she believes her group’s initiative will pass in Colorado because the issue has received more attention recently. Right to Know Colorado plans to enlist support from a number of other groups throughout the state and nationwide.

“We don’t plan on losing in Colorado,” she said. “It’s our right to know what’s in our food.”

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