Advocates hoping to see labels on genetically modified foods have a Republican state senator as an unlikely ally in Indiana.
Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, has introduced legislation that would require companies to label foods produced by genetic engineering. Under the bill, a company also couldn't use "natural" on its label if the product contained genetically modified organisms, known as "GMOs." Violators could face infractions.
In a business-friendly, Republican-controlled Statehouse, Kruse acknowledged that the bill will certainly face "vigorous lobbying against it by big companies." It's also similar to other recent voter initiatives that failed to pass even in more liberal Western states.
Kruse has pursued unsuccessful crusades in the past, with his bills seeking the teaching of creationism and requiring the recitation of the Lord's Prayer in Indiana classrooms going nowhere in the legislature.
But Kruse says consumers deserve to know where their food comes from.
"I still like people knowing what they're eating," Kruse said Tuesday. "If I choose to eat it, that's my choice, I'll go ahead and eat it, but I'd like to know that this has been genetically modified."
Some academics and activists are concerned about the unknown effects of pervasive use of GMOs, but there's little science that says genetically engineered foods are unsafe. Agribusinesses also fear mandatory labels would spook consumers. Most of the nation's corn and soybeans are genetically engineered to resist pests and herbicides and provide better yields in droughts.
It's why the Farm Bureau and its powerful Indiana lobbying arm supports the use of GMOs.
"It's a valuable tool, and there's a lot of benefits in efficiency and using the technology," said Justin Schneider, Indiana Farm Bureau's senior policy adviser and counsel. "It's been good for ag. It really has, and I think it's been good for the consumer, being able to produce and grow products more efficiently in a shrinking pool of land."
The case for GMO labeling has been a tough sell even in states with strong liberal voting blocs.
Voters in Oregon, California, Colorado and Washington recently have blocked GMO labeling initiatives in those states.
But Vermont lawmakers last spring passed a bill mandating GMO labeling by 2016. Maine and Connecticut also have passed bills that may someday require labels on store shelves should other states pass similar bills.