GMO labeling a good idea for food products

When Nov. 4 rolls around this fall, we plan to vote for a citizen-backed ballot initiative that requires grocery stores and producers to label food that contains genetically modified ingredients because we believe it is everyone’s right to know what is in the food we eat.

At press time (Aug. 19), the Colorado secretary of state had not yet certified the measure for the ballot, but supporters turned in more than twice the number of signatures needed to qualify and we believe it will make its way to voters.

As always, it’s not as simple as typing out a label and applying it to a package of sugar or a raw carrot. But it’s still something that needs to occur. We like this measure because it is statutory, meaning it will change the way a Colorado law is enforced. It doesn’t rewrite the constitution.

We like it as well because more than 70 percent of Coloradans polled are in favor of some kind of labeling, and we think their wishes need to be respected.

Colorado lawmakers have tried to enact similar measures in each of the past two years and have failed. Frankly, we prefer measures hammered out by the folks we elect to take on these tough issues, but when they fail to perform, the ballot box is the next option.

Still, there are cautionary notes that need to be sounded. As a society, we have a lot to learn about genetically modified food – and what we know so far is that it’s not all bad. Some genetically modified strains of corn, for instance, require fewer pesticides and less water. Those are good things.

What we know less about is the impact of genetic engineering on the long-term resilience of the plants we require to feed ourselves. Are we weakening the plant universe by creating genetically engineered versions, and are these versions going to be less adaptable than those that have evolved naturally? It’s not clear yet.

Can these labeling requirements be applied in a way that doesn’t impose overly burdensome costs on farmers and small markets? We believe they can be, and if this measures is approved by voters, lawmakers will need to address costs and administrative chores.

According to Colorado State University, at least 21 countries and the European Union have embraced mandatory labeling. We think it’s time Colorado and the United States did the same.