Position: Favorable
Maryland PIRG supports SB0778 / HB1191, which establishes labeling of products containing GMO foods in Maryland supermarkets.

Maryland Public Interest Research Group is a statewide, non-partisan, non-profit advocacy group that takes on powerful interests, working to win concrete results for our health and well-being on behalf of thousands of members across the state.

Maryland consumers have a right to know what’s in the food we buy, so we can make healthy, responsible, and informed choices about what we’re eating. Manufacturers are required by federal law to list ingredients and other nutrition information on food packaging, but whether or not a food is genetically modified is not included. More than 60 countries, including the entire European Union, already require GMO labeling, but in the U.S., consumers are still denied this basic information.  

In Maryland, and across the country, businesses are starting to respond to consumer demand for information on GMO foods. A year ago, Whole Foods committed to labeling GMO foods, and last week Safeway and Kroger announced they would not sell GE Salmon. Maryland PIRG is working with a coalition of consumers, local farmers, small business owners, and consumer and environmental advocates to call on Safeway to label GMO foods in their store brand foods. Since January, 50 small business and local farmers have joined 800 consumers supporting Maryland PIRGs GMO labeling campaign. 

We’re glad that corporations are responding to consumer demand, but labeling GMO foods should not be the exception, it should be the law.  In addition to a basic right to know what’s in the products we buy, the nondisclosure of GMO ingredients prevents consumers with concerns about GMOs from acting on them.  And there are reasons for concern.

GMO-centric agriculture has increased the use of toxic chemicals.  Many GMO foods in the U.S. are designed to withstand herbicides and pesticides, and therefore enable increased use of these toxic chemicals – high pesticide exposure is associated with cognitive decline, cancer, and negative birth outcomes.  
Unfortunately, while consumers might suppose that the products they’re eating have been proven to be safe, in fact GMO plants do not usually undergo independent pre-market safety testing – a step that even the anti-labeling American Medical Association has called for.

There are a host of studies – most of them short-term, industry-backed, and performed only on animals – that have failed to find any health impacts, but comprehensive literature reviews argue that this falls far short of establishing the safety of these foods.   And there are studies that have found indications of health hazards.

Given these concerns, it’s unsurprising that the public overwhelmingly backs labeling of GMO ingredients, with polling consistently finding 90% or higher support. 

Maryland PIRG encourages you to support SB0778 / HB1191.


[1] Center for Food Safety, International Labeling Laws.
[2] “GMO Crops Mean More Herbicide, Not Less,Forbes, July 2, 213; “Pesticide Use Ramping Up as GMO Crop Technology Backfires: Study,” Reuters, Oct. 1, 2012.
[3] See, e.g., National Resources Defense Council, Pesticides: What You Need to Know.
[4] “GMOs Should be Safety Tested Before They Hit the Market Says AMA,Chicago Tribune, June 19, 2012.
[5] “A Literature Review on the Safety Assessment of GM Plants – New Study,GM Watch.
[6] American Academy of Environmental Medicine, Position Paper on Genetically Modified Foods, May 8, 2009.
[7] “Strong Support for Labeling Modified Foods,New York Times, July 27, 2013.

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