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My Turn: I’m a grocer, and I’m for GMO labeling

As a member of the New Hampshire Grocers Association, I wholeheartedly disagree with President John Dumais’s column about genetically modified organisms (“GMO labeling: bad for business, bad for shoppers,” Monitor Forum, Jan. 8). In fact, many of the points Dumais made are exactly what he proclaims to avoid: stating opinions as facts and misleading this debate.

GMOs are in 60-70 percent of processed foods; however, their widespread use doesn’t demonstrate their safety. None of these foods are actually tested for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Association. There are countless examples of products used widely that later were identified with health issues, for example BPA in plastic.

Advocates for labeling, including our grocery store, are not saying that GMOs are bad. We are saying that we simply don’t know enough about these foods. They are produced very differently by inserting DNA from one species into a different species. Therefore, consumers should know when they are consuming products from genetic engineering.

Dumais claims GMOs are good for the environment by reducing herbicide and pesticide use. However, a recent study found that the use of genetically engineered crops increased herbicide use by 527 million pounds from 1996 to 2011. As crops genetically engineered to tolerate the herbicide Glyphosate have supplanted conventional varieties, herbicide resistant “superweeds” have increasingly spread across the nation, causing more herbicide use.

Dumais claims GMOs increase crop yields, but several studies conducted have made that claim highly questionable.

Dumais claims that labeling GMOs would lead to a loss of jobs. Sixty-four nations – from Brazil to New Zealand, plus the European Union – already require labeling to inform their citizens about the presence of GMOs, and none have cited job loss as a result.

Dumais claims that grocery prices will rise with GMO labeling. As the manager of a grocery store, I don’t see how letting people know whether a product contains GMOs or not would raise prices. Manufacturers change labels all the time, with minimal costs.

The amended version of HB 660 would go into effect only if four other states in our region pass similar labeling laws; this will prevent any negative consequences to our state. Connecticut and Maine already have passed similar measures, it’s time for New Hampshire to join with our neighbors and provide our residents the right they deserve.

As consumers, we have a fundamental right to know what we’re eating. If people want this information, they should have it. And when 93 percent of surveyed Americans say genetically modified or engineered food should have labels, as was the case in a New York Times poll last year, it’s time for companies to provide them.

(Michael Faber is general manager of the Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene.)

Great article and reply to Mr. Dumais' original claims, as you so perfectly counterclaimed them with facts about the current state of the GMO food supply. As a consumer in New Hampshire, it is imperative that this bill be passed and implemented; currently there are bills being considered by the US Congress that would block states' rights like ours and our neighbors to label GMOs, which is being pushed by GMO companies like Monsanto and lobbying groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents more than 300 large food and beverage companies. Thank you Mr. Faber for bringing up such great points and research important to this debate and vote... and for being an independent voice within your own organization!

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