Initiative to Label Genetically Modified Foods Stirs Debate - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Initiative to Label Genetically Modified Foods Stirs Debate

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RICHLAND, Wash.-- Consumers beware! That's what advocates want you to know about the food you eat.

A debate over labeling genetically modified foods, also known as GMOs, will be up for a vote in our state this fall.

At the heart of this debate is your health and the choices you make about what you eat.

Some say GMOs don't impact your body's well-being and others say they do.

We may not always know what goes into the food we eat and an initiative that would require GMO labels might make you think twice about what you consume.

Supporters and critics of the proposal are working to educate people on the topic. Friday, WSU Tri-Cities hosted a seminar that discussed one view.

"Genetically modified organisms have been proven over and over again to be substantially equivalent to the crops that they pretty much were bred from. So, they weren't qualified for labeling under that. They're not nutritionally different, they don't have allergens and they don't have any toxins. So why do you need to label them?" said Allan Felsot, WSU Tri-Cities professor.

But, others disagree and think the U.S. is past due when it comes to alerting consumers about GMOs.

"There's a lack of understanding between how food is produced and how it may have an effect on the health of the people that consume it," said Howard Vlieger, farmer and GMO study author.

Vlieger says he's seen the impact of a diet including GMOs on people and in animals. He says they make people sick.

"As the use of genetically engineered crops and the chemicals has gone up, so has a number of diseases in the population in our country. That does not document cause and effect, but it is a very interesting fact," Vlieger said.

But Felsot says people aren't any healthier with a GMO free diet and the labeling will be a waste.

"Really don't know how it's going to be implemented. What we do know is that common sense tells us it's going to be very expensive and we're not going to get any benefit out of it," Felsot said.

Vlieger says there are 64 countries in the world that either label GMOs or ban them entirely. But our country doesn't at all.

The initiative will appear on the ballot in November.

A similar GMO labeling measure in California failed to pass last year.