Debate grows over labeling genetically engineered foods

By Anna Yee

June 20, 2013 Updated Dec 20, 2013 at 7:33 PM CDT

NORMAL, Ill. -- Learning is still going strong this summer at Illinois State University.

On Thursday, dozens packed the Bone Student Center to discuss REQUIRING food labels ON genetically-engineered products.

Herman Brockman is local organic farmer and geneticist and supports those labels.

"We have to have freedom of choice," said Brockman. "I just can't understand why everybody doesn't deserve that."

Earlier this year, State Senator Dave Koehler introduced the concept of labeling GE foods in Senate Bill 1666.

"I think that because of the predominance and importance of the industry here within the state of Illinois, that we really ought to be a leader in this," said St. Sen. Dave Koehler, (D), of the 46th District.

Koehler says only one other state enforces labeling genetically-modified foods.

Others say it's an unnecessary cost for both manufacturers and consumers and creates a negative stigma.

"We think that that sends the message or the public believes there's something wrong with it, when scientists, 400 scientific studies have shown that genetically engineered food is safe for consumption," said said Mark Denzler, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Illinois Manufacturers' Association, which represents hundreds of food companies across Illinois.

Denzler says if labels do become a requirement, the association believes they should be approved by the federal government, for all states.

Senator Koehler still wants to hear all views on genetically engineered food labeling.

There will be two more public hearings:

--August 7, 2013: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Noon to 2 p.m. (location TBA)

--September 17, 2013: Michael Bilandic Bldg., 160 N LaSalle St., Chicago, 10 a.m. to Noon

You can also call or write to Senator Koehler's office:

Springfield Office:

Senator 46th District
M113 Capitol
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8250
(217) 782-2115 FAX

District Office:
400 NE. Jefferson, Suite 200
Peoria, IL 61603
(309) 677-0120

If the committee votes in favor of GE food labeling, the bill will go to the full Senate for consideration.