by Andrew Crisp
Genetically modified foods are detrimental to human health and should carry clear labeling that warns consumers, argued protesters with GMO Free Idaho, standing outside U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo's office on July 18.
"We're here to educate people on what a GMO is," said Leslie Stoddard. "Ninety percent of consumers, when polled, said they wanted GMOs labelled."
GMO's are genetically modified organisms, or crops with DNA that has been modified to increase yields and flourish around chemical sprays, like Monsanto's Roundup.
The farm bill recently debated by the U.S. Senate included an amendment introduced by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, which would give states the ability to require labels on foods containing GMOs. However, that amendment was defeated 73 to 26, with Sen. Crapo voting against.
"It's not a partisan issue. It's about consumer's rights," said Stoddard.
Armed with posters and signs, more than 30 protesters assembled at the Front Street building just after 4 p.m. on July 18. Drivers honked often or rolled down their windows to ask for more information. Layne Bangerter, state director of agriculture and natural resources, and Lindsay Nothern, Sen. Crapo's communications director, both came down to talk with the protesters.
"These guys have raised some good points and they've caused us to go back and look at this stuff. [Crapo's] mind is not closed, and the letter he sent out has said as much. We've met with this group a couple times, and we will again today," said Nothern.
Nothern said that a lack of evidence about GMO-related health issues influenced Crapo's decision. But protesters said that federal agencies tasked with regulating GMOs have failed to adequately study potential health problems.
"Universities have studied it," countered Nothern. "If somebody says they don't like this kind of food, that's a consumer choice. But we're relying on the science."
But GMO opponents said making an informed consumer choice is key. Stoddard said GMO Free Idaho will pursue a petition drive to get an Idaho GMO labeling provision on the ballot. That initiative could require as many as 50,000 signatures, and would come after the state and national elections in November.
"We're not necessarily going to change Crapo's position—we're trying to raise public awareness—but we would love it if we did," added Stoddard.