When Eric Herm heard in 2005 that genetically modified cottonseeds were the latest innovation on the market, he thought he should plant the crop on his family farm near Lubbock, Tex.
“I was like, ‘What’s so bad about this,’ ” he said of the seeds, which are a cheaper way to help crops resist weed and insect damage. “We’re saving money and labor.”
After learning that the “seeds are injected with the genes of herbicides and pesticides,” Mr. Herm became critical of the product. “I didn’t want to be consuming that,” he said. “And neither would you.”
Now, Mr. Herm is advocating a requirement to include warning labels on consumer products with genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.’s. He is among a small group of farmers and environmental advocates pushing for the labeling of G.M.O. products in Texas. But the push is getting little support from the Republican-dominated state leadership or from major agribusinesses.
“I haven’t had a single constituent mention support for G.M.O. labeling to me,” said State Representative Drew Springer, a Republican member of the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee. Even if a measure were introduced, he added, it would face a difficult road in the Republican-led Legislature.
G.M.O. products, which are made from planting seeds with engineered DNA, make up about 90 percent of cash crops like cotton, corn and soybeans nationwide, according to the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, which supports labeling. The United States Food and Drug Administration also supports labeling but has said that it should be voluntary because foods with G.M.O.’s are safe.
Maine and Connecticut require G.M.O. products to be labeled, and 26 other states have considered legislation. In Texas, there has been no such proposal, though interest has grown. Austin-based Whole Foods Market (a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune) announced that it would label products with genetically modified ingredients by 2018.
Most farmers oppose G.M.O. labeling because it brings unnecessary attention to the product, which could slow sales, said Gene Hall, a spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau, which represents agricultural producers across Texas, including large agribusinesses. (The Texas Farm Bureau has been a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune.)
“We don’t need to label something that is absolutely safe,” Mr. Hall said.
But activists say the issue is about keeping consumers informed.
“In the U.S., we don’t label dangerous foods — we take it off the marketplace,” said Colin O’Neil, the director of government affairs for the Center for Food Safety. “We’re not saying these products are dangerous, either. We’re just saying consumers have the right to know.”
Some labeling proponents say agribusinesses have lobbied against their efforts. “For a long time, these agribusinesses have been incredibly powerful in keeping G.M.O. labeling out of the Legislature,” said Sara Smith, program director of the nonprofit Texas Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization.
Organic farmers like Mr. Herm and Gerald Cole of Taylor, Tex., who support G.M.O. labeling, said their smaller numbers were at a disadvantage against food conglomerates.
“They can lobby Congress for their best interest,” Mr. Cole said. “We just can’t.”
Mr. Hall said he was unaware of the millions spent on lobbying, but added: “There is nothing wrong with it. We’re opposed to labeling, and we’re not afraid to say so.”