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A GMO-Free New Mexico? Land of Enchantment to Debate Labeling

Leon Kaye | Monday December 24th, 2012 | 2 Comments
New Mexico, GMOs, genetically engineered, Proposition 37, Peter Wirth, GMO labeling, gmo chille, Leon Kaye, Susana Martinez, food and water watch

New Mexico’s famous chiles are part of the state’s GMO debate

The push for mandatory GMO labeling may have taken a sucker punch in California, but the debate over genetically modified foods is still simmering. New Mexico state senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) has filed an amendment to the state’s food act to require the labeling of genetically modified food ingredients. Working with the NGO, Food & Water Watch, Wirth drafted the amendment, SB 18, to require that foods sold in New Mexico be labeled if they contain more than one percent of genetically modified food ingredients.

So, will visitors to Santa Fe and the rest of New Mexico soon be reassured that their green chile-slathered meals and sopapillas will be over 99 percent GMO free?

The issue has resonated somewhat in the Land of Enchantment. Concern over the state’s beloved green chile, which has lost 75 percent of total harvested acres within the state over the past 20 years, has caused some controversy with some critics accusing research on this crop leading to “GMO chile.” Otherwise, the debate over GMOs is consistent with the rest of the United States–Wirth claims SB 18 is about transparency and providing consumers the tools to know what is in the food they purchase.

As with any legislation, the devil is in the details. Dig into the amended bill and you will find such jaw-dropping details as “A food shall be deemed to be misbranded . . . if it is a genetically modified food product that is not labeled as a genetically modified food product.”

Whether SB 18 can make any difference in the GMO debate is dubious. California was the real prize for GMO labeling advocates because a product compliant for the most populous U.S. state would then be able to be marketed throughout the rest of the U.S. What would be interesting, however, is that if the 36th most populous state passed this legislation, how would the big firms that opposed Proposition 37 in California react? In the end, Wirth’s bill is significant because it continues the debate over GMO labeling; passage of this amended bill in New Mexico’s legislature would require the signature of Governor Susana Martinez, a Republican and Tea Party favorite rumored to be part of the 2016 presidential mix. It is highly doubtful she would sign such legislation, but then again, the debate over GMOs is evolving and anything could happen. GMO labeling has a long road ahead in the U.S., but its supporters should be encouraged by what is occurring in Santa Fe and other U.S. state capitols.

Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

 

Image credit: New Mexico Tourism


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  • Frank

    Very interesting. We had demonstrations here in NM a year ago over the green chili pepper, as you refer to. It was organized by the local Occupy movement, actually. The chili pepper is something that appeals to our nativism and it transcends ethnicity. As you enter New Mexico the “Welcome To New Mexico” sign has a green chili and red chili on it and that’s all. (Red being the ripened stage, which produces a milder sauce, with a distinctly different flavor. FYI.) The governor is popular but was overwhelmed in the November elections (she was not up for re-election but all the candidates she supported lost — local, state and federal) as Albuquerque appears to be joining Santa Fe as a Liberal stronghold. The demographic shift is underway, which should have implications not only here for GMO labeling. Si se peude!

    By the way the bar this web site puts at the top of my browser is really, really annoying. Not only does it take up a lot of my limited screen area but it covers up my Finder window so when I had to look up my Discus password I couldn’t.

  • Odessy 45

    Leon – what’s your take on the critiques of Prop 37 – that it apparently laid the burden on the retailers as opposed to the manufacturers of food? I voted for it, but now that I hear this explanation I feel like the defeat makes more sense. Assuming this is true, it makes no sense to make retailers the point of labeling… how could they know what ingredients are GMO?