Before moving to Colorado a decade ago, I’d never watched enough of any high school, college or professional football game to know what was going on. Because of the way the Denver Broncos are part of the entire Mile High atmosphere , I cannot say that any longer. footballref_406x250I now understand not only the game, but the way the playoffs are organized.  I know how the NFL settles a play in dispute on the field.  I have nothing emotionally invested yet in how the Broncos finish, and I doubt I ever will. But you cannot have a casual conversation in these parts with anyone if you do not at least know the structure and organization of the NFL and its games. And, being a social type, I like conversing with people about the Broncos. In America we once had a similar set of rules and organization. It was called Federalism. When it came to food safety, we said there would be a couple of big federal organizations for protecting food safety in the whole country. Congress would empower those organizations to make regulations and decide all the details — like what should go on the food labels. This went along unchallenged for many, many years.  Now, however, it seems many think food labels are political statements or marketing gimmicks. Unlike the NFL, food safety has no guys in black and white stripes to say: “After review, the ruling on the field that only Congress can mandate food label regulations stands.” Then we all could just order another beer. Instead we have situations like tiny Vermont with its 100 grocery stores trying to impose its will on the nation through the federal courts. Maybe federal judges in their black robes will turn out to be as effective as those NFL referees, but it sure takes longer. And in the meantime, those who want labels on GMOs — not for safety but for possible marketing advantage or politics — campaign for states to act. Now, I have nothing against that, if by state action you mean resolutions to Congress making your best case.   But if you mean, the states should be making food labeling laws on their own hook, I say that would be wrong. It would be wrong because it does not respect Federalism and wrong because it does not advance food safety. If labeling foods made through genetic engineering is a popular idea, then all the groups campaigning for that outcome should be about to get 10 or 15 resolutions to Congress passed through the states by spring. That would be impressive, and it would demonstrate  some respect for Federalism to add to their credibility. Federalism certainly is not getting the respect it once enjoyed. Our immigration and drug enforcement policies have more loopholes and options than a banana republic.  But we don’t need to make this one more complicated than it needs to be. A couple guys in black and white stripes could keep track of what level of government should be setting food labeling policies. Let’s get the politics out of food safety.   (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)