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My Turn: GMO labeling bill is important (and not expensive)

Andrew Georgevits claims that if the Legislature passes House Bill 660, which would require that genetically engineered food be labeled, it “would impose crushing costs on small businesses across New Hampshire and on the state itself” (Monitor letter, Oct. 16). This is false.

Had he attended the Oct. 15 hearing held by the Environment and Agriculture Subcommittee considering HB 660, he would have heard Chris Miller of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream testify that if labeling is required it would entail no additional cost to his company so none would be passed on to his consumers. He said Ben and Jerry’s changes labels all the time, so labeling would not mean higher costs to consumers. At an earlier hearing, Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm testified that his company, too, routinely changes labels, so labeling for genetically engineered ingredients would not mean higher costs to the consumer.

This was also the conclusion of a formal study of GMO labeling done at Emory University.

Georgevits also claimed that “genetically modified foods are safe for people.” In fact, we do not know for certain if genetically engineered foods are safe for people. At the Oct. 15 hearing, Stephen Drucker, a U.S. public interest attorney who sued the Food and Drug Administration over the release of genetically modified foods onto the world market without adequate, peer-reviewed testing, described the lawsuit he filed which forced the FDA to disclose records which demonstrated that the agency had allowed the release of insufficiently tested genetically modified organisms onto the world market. According to FDA records made public by this lawsuit, the release of the GMOs occurred against the warnings of the FDA’s own scientists and experts. These warnings were based on the fact that GMOs are different from conventionally produced food and could create unexpected toxic or allergenic effects.

Currently, biotech companies test their own unique, patentable products and present their findings to the FDA. The FDA does not perform its own independent testing on these products.

In addition, Georgevits’s claim that using genetically engineered seeds benefits the farmer and the environment has been called into question in several recent reports.

On Oct. 12, the Des Moines Register reported that farmers using genetically engineered corn are seeing that their “plants are no longer resistant to corn rootworms” because the pests are becoming resistant to the pesticide that is bred into every cell of the genetically engineered corn. An article in the Sept. 1 Valley News noted that the same “pest appears in Illinois fields despite use of Monsanto corn.” On Sept. 20, the New York Times reported concern about the effects that the increasing use of the herbicide glyphosate (used on genetically engineered crops) is having on soil and the ability of corn plants to take up nutrients. On Oct. 1, the Times reported that “A disease cuts corn yields”: “No one is certain why Goss’s wilt has become so rampant in recent years. But many plant pathologists suspect that the biggest factor is the hybrids chosen for genetic modification by major seed companies.”

HB 660 does not ban GMOs. It simply recognizes our right to know what is in the food we purchase, eat and feed to our families. Given the scientific challenges faced by GMOs, consumers should know when they are present in our food.

(Janet Ward lives in Contoocook.)

Thank you Janet for a concise summary of the testimony provided over weeks of study of the bill. Denying people information about what they eat is no different than denying them information about the side effects of the medications they take, or denying them information about potential consequences of a medical procedure. We have determined that people are capable of deciding for themselves what is best for them in these specific circumstances. They are equally capable of making decisions about what they feed their families and that information should be available through labeling.p Maureen Mann Sponsor HB 660

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