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Genetically Modified Food Labeling Bill Pre-Filed in New Mexico Senate

A bill to mandate the labeling of food and commercial feed containing genetically modified material has been pre-filed in the New Mexico State Senate.

Sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) Senate Bill (SB) 18 amends the New Mexico Food Act and would apply to any food, drink or chewing gum for humans or animals. The new law defines any product containing more than one percent of a genetically modified material as a product that would require a disclosure label on the “immediate container” or wrapper. It would require the label to be “easily legible.”

SB 18 was pre-filed after California voters in last November’s election defeated a ballot measure with similar objectives by a 6.2 percent margin. Since that defeat, advocates of GMO labeling have also filed an initiative with the Washington State Legistlature that gives the lawmakers an opportunity to take action before that measure would be sent on to voters as a ballot measure.

Attempts to reach Sen. Wirth for comment were unsuccessful.  It is not known whether his efforts are in any way connected to those who backed Prop 37, as the Washington State initiative is.

The 16-page New Mexico bill defines “genetically modified material” as a substance that has been produced, enhanced, or otherwise modified “through the use of recombinant, deoxyribonucleic aid technology, genetic engineering or bioengineering.”

Rule-making authority is given to the state’s environmental improvement board, which is required to “establish standards for measuring and quantifying the amount of genetically modified material in food.” The New Mexico Department of the Environment is given the power to conduct investigations to “verify the accuracy of labeling of food products pursuant to the New Mexico Food Act.”

Sen. Wirth’s party controls both the New Mexico Senate and House, but the Governor is Susana Martinez, the popular Hispanic former District Attorney. New Mexico ‘s Legislature only meets from Jan. 15 to March 16, so the sponsor of any bill has to work fast.

A group known as “GMO Free Oregon” plans to collect signatures this summer to put an initiative on that state’s ballot. The language it has submitted is said to be similar to the losing Prop 37 in California.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which sets labeling requirements for food and beverages in the U.S. does not require disclosure when genetically modified ingredients are used because such changes do not make food more or less safe.

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