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My Turn: Mandatory GMO labeling would hurt shoppers

As president of the New Hampshire Grocers Association, I have been amazed by how little is actually known about the important role GMOs play in making food prices more affordable for New Hampshire families and keeping costs low for food producers and grocers who contribute to our local economy.

Understanding the basic definition of genetically modified organisms – which has been lost in a campaign of politics and fear mongering – is the first step to clarifying their importance to the New Hampshire consumer and small-business owner.

Genetically modified organisms are those that have been modified to include naturally occurring traits that allow for better nutritional value or the ability to grow quicker and more plentifully.

GMOs have been in the U.S. food supply for more than 20 years and currently make up about 70 to 80 percent of the food on our supermarket shelves. After 20 years in our food supply, there has not been a single case of GMOs causing anyone harm.

As farmers have developed the ability to enhance their crops with desirable traits, consumers and small-business owners, including grocers, have benefited. In empowering farmers to fortify crops with the capability to survive adverse environmental conditions like drought, insects and pestilence, GMOs have helped farmers cut expenses associated with pesticides, irrigation systems and other aides that farmers traditionally spent large sums on to protect their crop.

As producers have spent less on these input costs, food prices have declined by as much as 30 percent, according to some estimates.

The movement in some states, including here in New Hampshire, to require a patchwork of mandatory GMO labels would eliminate all GMO cost benefits for consumers and small farmers.

From top to bottom in our nation’s food supply chain, mandatory GMO labeling will cause costs to increase. Grocers will feel the impact of these new regulatory burdens, making it more difficult for our members to provide consumers with affordable food options

One recent report, by economists at Cornell University, looked at the impact that mandatory labeling would have on consumer pocketbooks and found that a family of four would pay an average of $500 more each year for groceries, with some families’ costs rising by as much as $1,500 a year. Another study found that seniors and families with annual incomes of between $10,000 and $20,000 would be most affected by rising costs, as food costs take up a larger amount of their incomes.

Under mandatory labeling laws, GM and non-GM foods will have to be segregated as they move through the production and supply chain from start to finish, in order to guard against cross-contamination.

Complying with this will require the distributors and grocers we represent at the New Hampshire Grocers Association to find and pay for additional transportation and warehouse space. For many of our members, particularly small-business owners, these costs will be prohibitive.

When customers are already seeing increased food prices, it makes no sense to increase the regulatory burden on food products even more – especially considering the fact that every leading scientific body, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the World Health Organization – has confirmed the safety of GMOs.

The impact of mandatory labeling on small food producers throughout New Hampshire would be equally as severe. As mandatory labeling laws usher in new, expensive regulations, the cost savings from GMOs that small farmers have come to depend on will be eliminated, and many New Hampshire farmers will not be able to manage.

New Hampshire consumers have a right to know that mandatory labeling will affect more than a seal on a package of food – it will also affect the prices they pay for food and the viability of our local economies.

A federal approach that puts food labeling decisions in the hands of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is the right approach to take to promote consumer confidence in our food supply, without raising prices on consumers and fees on local businesses.

We strongly urge all congressional representatives to support the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling act because it is important legislation that will protect New Hampshire’s small businesses, food producers and most importantly, our consumers in the checkout aisle.

(John M. Dumais is president and CEO of the New Hampshire Grocers Association.)

Legacy Comments5

Walter, Your concerned is warranted (however, are you a geneticist?). We certainly have plenty of history and experience that rightfuly leads to caution and skepticism of mega-agri and food business. for example MSG. Glutamate of chemical signal agent in the body's pain system and in so much. Some of the psych's call glutamate the "bad boy" of neuro-chemistry. That said is constantly mutating genetics. Are genetic changes that make food more disease resistant, by definition, bad for us? No, I don't either. If we can develop food that do not require co-administration of herbacides and pesticides, would that move have the potential to lower the use of agents we know can be harmful. Do we need those? Be honest, most people will pass-up a fruit or vegetable with a blemish even if the food inside is fine. Yes, I know, nothing comes for free in the world of energy or chemistry. Like climate change (ah, on-going process since the planet was formed and 2014 was the coolest year in a decade) ), we need more hard data and fewer knee-jerks.

TCB...when was the last year when you could go into a supermarket and pick up a peach that is ready to be eaten?? The only place you can fine peaches ready to be eaten is at a farm stand (or farmer's market). The typical supermarket peach (or pear, etc) is rock-hard. Let it sit on your counter for a few days, and it will be half rotten. GMO fruits and vegetables are 'designed' to withstand months in a refrigerator yet still appear fresh (which they are not). What the process of genetically modifying veggies and fruits do to them changes their DNA. Humans who have not been eating these new DNA changes may or may not be effected in very unexpected ways. We put our children at risk of these possibilities when we place that food onto their plates. Are you OK with that??

John...what you do not know about genetically modified foods could probably fill a book, unless you are a plant geneticist, which I doubt very much. So, all you can expound is what the corporations selling GMO tell you, and we all know how truthful they can be. What the corps will NEVER tell you, because they don't care, is what health problems you may have in 8, 10, 15 years after eating all their food. Since those corps AND you are in it for the money, the general public will not receive accurate information from you willingly. So, you have to be forced to tell us the truth, whether you like it or not!!

democrats live to regulate. QUOTE "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." "Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it." "Man is not free unless government is limited." Ronald Reagan The solution to the perceived problem is not for more govt regulations on the existing food chain but for some entrepreneur to offer just GMO free foods.

Did you have a point here, somewhere??

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