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A growing concern: Initiative #48 would require labels on genetically modified food

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Think fracking will make a lot of noise at the ballot box on November 4 -- and on TV and computer screens before that? Of all the initiatives vying for a place on the ballot, Initiative #48 could be the most controversial -- and expensive, with opponents (think Monsanto) prepared to fight, and fight hard. And what's the focus of this hot-topic measure? Requiring that food which has been genetically engineered must be labeled as such. But that's just the condensed version.

See also: Colorado Supreme Court approves Colorado GMO labeling initiative

Here's the official wording for Initiative #48: Labeling Genetically Modified Food

Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning labeling of genetically modified food; and, in connection therewith, requiring food that has been genetically modified or treated with genetically modified material to be labeled, "Produced With Genetic Engineering" starting on July 1, 2016; exempting some foods including but not limited to food from animals that are not genetically modified but have been fed or injected with genetically modified food or drugs, certain food that is not packaged for retail sale and is intended for immediate human consumption, alcoholic beverages, food for animals, and medically prescribed food; requiring the Colorado department of public health and environment to regulate the labeling of genetically modified food; and specifying that no private right of action is created for failure to conform to the labeling requirements?

If Colorado voters pass Initiative 48, foods that are genetically modified would be required to include the words "Produced With Genetic Engineering" in a clear and conspicuous manner on their labeling. Existing food mislabeling penalties would be applied to any manufacturers, distributors or retailers that do not include GMO (genetically modified organisms) labeling on genetically engineered foods. Consumers would be prohibited from bringing legal action against manufacturers, distributors or retailers if they failed to comply with labeling requirements; the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would oversee all labeling requirements.

Initiative 48 was created and sponsored by Right to Know Colorado, a grassroots campaign for GMO labeling and education. Steven Hoffman, director of funding and communications for the organization, says the proposal is all about giving control to communities to make informed food decisions.

Hoffman has been involved in several GMO labeling campaigns in the past. "The consumer ought to be able to decide," he says, adding that the GMO label won't cost the manufacturer any more money and will not raise the price of food.

Right to Know is currently collecting signatures to get the proposal on the ballot; petition gatherers often are located outside Whole Foods store locations, as well as Alfalfa's Market and Lucky's Market in Boulder.

The endgame of this national movement is a federal level-labeling law. "We are in support of mandatory federal labeling," Hoffman says "But the FDA refuses to move. As more and more states pass laws, they will be compelled to make one consistent labeling law."

The deadline for collecting signatures for citizen initiatives is August 4. Find information on all the current proposals on the Colorado Secretary of State website.

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