GMO Labeling Bill Dies in Senate

Feb 1, 2013

S.B. 18, aimed at requiring labels on foods with genetically-modified ingredients, or GMOs, has effectively died in the New Mexico senate.

The state senate voted not to adopt a favorable committee report of the bill, which makes it effectively dead for the session.

Sen. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe introduced S.B. 18 and tells KRWG News he did not expect the senate to kill the bill so quickly.

GMOs have come under recent scrutiny nationwide. California’s GMO food-labeling Proposition 37 was defeated in November.

One New Mexico crop has escaped the GMO controversy – chilies. That’s because, right now, there are no genetically modified chilies being distributed.

NMSU grows chilies and breeds them using traditional methods.

Stephanie Walker gets excited every time she takes a chili and improves it just a little.

“To take a couple of chili varieties that might be okay – they might be pretty good varieties, but to make them better.”

Either to reduce the heat…or to give them a thicker wall.

“It’s very exciting to me to see what you can do with selective breeding seed saving, protection from cross-pollination, it’s maybe like seeing your kids grow up, see them realize their full potential as they become adults.”

Stephanie is the Extension vegetable Specialist at NMSU.

“All we’re doing right now is the traditional breeding. We basically will hand pollinate the different parental lines…we don’t do any GMO breeding.”

That’s usually done by large companies. A 2010 report by the National Academies of Sciences says genetically engineered crops constitute more than 80 percent of soybeans, corn and cotton grown in the U.S.

Some, like Monsanto buy the rights to genetically modified seeds. It owns a farm between Las Cruces and El Paso.

Some consumers are worried about effects of GMOs, so Senator Wirth introduced a bill at the Roundhouse that would mean new labels on food.

New Mexico S.B. 18 would have amended the New Mexico Food Act.

It would have meant food products sold in the state with genetically modified ingredients would all need labels saying so.

The bill included animal feed as well.

So far, there’s “widespread agreement” among scientists that the crops are safe.

And among the benefits touted, “resistance to herbicides that allows them to thrive while weeds die.”

If the labels were to be required, there’s one item they would not be placed on.

“There are no GMO chilis right now.”

Whether the labels are one day required or not, Stephanie Walker will continue doing what she’s been doing…

“What we’re trying to do is breed them for better harvest…and for growers in New Mexico.”