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Push to label GMOs on all food products

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Rochester: Push to label GMOs on all food products
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An effort is underway across the country, as well as locally, to label foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, that has the potential to impact the state's agriculture industry. Erin Billups has more.

Hamilton Colwell says it takes his company, Maia Yogurt, 24 hours to make one cup of its all-natural Greek yogurt.

"You are what you eat. We at Maia Yogurt really believe in keeping to the true integrity of the food," said Colwell.

Colwell has joined a growing movement against the use of genetically modified organisms. A bill requiring that all foods containing GMOs be labeled failed to make it out of committee this past legislative session in Albany. Colwell is hoping mounting support will mean its passage next session.

"It's really important that when someone is sensitive to these GMO products that they are told the truth and understand what they are eating," he said.

The bill's lead sponsor, Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, says the bill doesn't focus on the specific ingredients.

"It doesn't mean you don't buy it. It just means that you know what you're buying. This is basically a right to know piece of legislation," Rosenthal said.

If a product contains GMOs the law would require a line on the packaging saying just that. It seems simple, but already there's been tons of pushback.

Rosenthal says her bill failed this year due to the lobbying efforts of agriculture giant Monsanto.

"There’s clearly something that they're hiding," Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal argues there are few studies proving the safety of GMOs. But Margaret Smith, Cornell University Professor of plant breeding and genetics, says there are plenty.

"I have yet to see any evidence that there is risk with the products that are out there now. They have been evaluated carefully in terms of their equivalence to non-genetically engineered products," Smith said.

Smith cautions that labeling laws could have unintended consequences on the state's agriculture industry, pressuring farmers to abandon modified seeds, which could eventually mean pricier goods for consumers.

"Would it be another blow to certain growers? Yes it would," Smith noted.

So far, Maine and Connecticut have passed labeling laws. There's also pending legislation in more than 20 other states.

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