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My Turn: GMO labeling: bad for business, bad for consumers

When you go to the grocery store, you look for foods your family needs and likes, and, if you’re like most Americans these days, you’re also looking at prices. But it’s also likely that you’re looking at labels just to make sure there’s nothing unhealthy in your foods. All of these factors inform your decision as to what to buy. After all, it’s about choice. We are lucky in this country to have so many choices.

But there are some people in New Hampshire who believe we need labels on foods that contain genetically modified, or engineered, foods (GMOs), creating a misconception that such foods are bad for you. Sadly, these people are using scare tactics over scientific facts. They are pushing a bill in the Legislature, House Bill 660, that would require anything with genetically modified organisms to be labeled as such. This is bad for business and bad for consumers, and it will create confusion where none needs to be.

It’s time to sort out fact from fiction, because if the bill passes, it will have a drastic economic impact on New Hampshire residents, grocers, restaurants, retailers and farmers.

The reality is, GMOs are in 70-85 percent of what we consume. Genetically modified seeds have been the norm for decades, without doing any harm whatsoever. In fact they’ve done great good. They are good for the environment because they reduce the need for pesticide, herbicide and water use, so the carbon footprint is less. They are good for farmers because they exponentially increase crop yields. They are good for consumers because they keep prices down at the grocery store. They are good for restaurants and retailers who can provide safe products at lower prices. All of these reasons also mean jobs, and more jobs.

Proponents of the bill say it’s a matter of transparency and the consumers’ right to know what’s in their food. But we already have that. Consumers who want food without GMOs can buy them by looking for products that have the “Certified Organic” or “Non GMO” labels.

No safety argument

The argument over safety has no legs to stand on. The Food and Drug Administration maintains the position that “there is no significant difference between foods produced using bio-engineering, as a class, and their conventional counterparts.” The American Medical Association says, “There is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.” The National Academies of Science, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization have produced more than 600 studies supporting the safety of these foods.

Ninety-three precent of New Hampshire’s food is imported. Forcing companies to produce special labels just for New Hampshire isn’t practical. They will either stop selling to us or substantially increase their prices. Our choices at the grocery store would be reduced. It would also mislead consumers to believe they should be concerned about a product’s safety when that’s simply not true. And it would cost all of us hundreds of dollars more per year for food. It would hurt our retailers, our grocers, our restaurateurs, and our farmers who would be denied access to new crop technologies that allow them to compete effectively in the marketplace. It would also severely reduce the 8 million pounds of food provided to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and food pantries in New Hampshire.

Lastly, at a time when the state budget is already stretched to the limit, HB 660 would mean having to create a state-run program that would cost half a million dollars. Guess who would foot the bill – you, me, and our neighbors.

In the past year, voters in both California and Washington carefully considered the costs and scientific information and rejected ballot initiatives to require labeling. When it reconvenes in January, the New Hampshire House of Representatives should do the same, for the sake of residents, businesses, retailers, and farmers across our state.

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

Legacy Comments9

In regards to the "No safety argument," contrary to popular belief, FDA regulators do not require independent studies verifying safety before approving release into our food supply, and as any serious researcher knows- the patented technology used on these seeds are protected, so it's difficult and down right criminal to run independent tests on GM's without violating these patents and running into serious legal risks, therefore the effects on health and the environment cannot be properly investigated. The FDA relies almost exclusively on information provided by the biotech developers, and that data is not subject to peer review. It appears as those there is a false sense of safety placed on these GM foods to increase public confidence but in fact do not ensure public safety of genetically modified foods. There are strict, rigorous, and long term testing done for pharmaceuticals, but none in place to test the safety and long term effects of genetically engineered food. It is interesting to note that the policy developed by the FDA regarding the voluntary program for pre-market review of foods, was developed with the FDA's deputy commissioner of policy, Michael Taylor who was a former Monsanto attorney. This is not the only conflict of interest in regarding Monsanto and legistlation, Clarence Thomas the Supreme Court Justice was a Monsanto attorney for four years, and has previously ruled in favor of Monsanto- Supreme Court Jusitice’s are above the law so to speak, in that they do not have to excuse themselves from ruling in cases where they face conflicts of interests, whereas any other lower judge must. GMO's are labeled, significantly restricted, or even outright banned in over 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the counties in Europe, but have no restrictions in the United States- the land of the free, right? one longest independent peer-reviewed study done in France on rats fed Monsanto's GM corn died prematurely and developed horrifying tumors. 50% of the males and 75% of the female rats died early compared to 30% and 20%. The cancer in the rats did not develop until well after 90 days, this is key since they were missed by almost of the shorter studied required for regulatory approval. As a current nursing student with a B.S. in Biology from UNH, I am disgusted by the dismissive attitude of this article. I can't help but notice the timing of it, given the fact that Maine just passed it's GMO labeling law two days ago, requiring NH to pass the law as well before the labeling can be put into place.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) reviewed the available research and issued a memorandum recommending that all doctors prescribe non-GMO diets to all patients because they are causally linked in animal feeding studies to Infertility, Immune system problems, Gastrointestinal problems, Organ damage, Dysfunctional regulation of cholesterol and insulin, Accelerated aging. They came to this conclusion and issued this recommendation based on scientific evidence, not on individuals who are trying to deny or hide the fact that problems exist. Even the FDAs own scientists have stated that GMOs can lead to allergies, nutritional problems, the creation of toxins and new diseases and should require long term safety studies. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/05/29/jeffrey-smith-interview-specter-rebuttal.aspx

If people are interested in this debate, start here: www.mydesert.com/assets/pdf/J1193281812.PDF‎

We were told that the Dalkon Shield and Asbestos were safe, but they were not. If GMOs are so safe why are you afraid of labeling them? Like a commenter here pointed out: It really can't cost that much to change a label, and if it does, can't you add a big "GMO" sticker to the product until new labels are printed. Let me decide if I want to eat that stuff rather than sneak it in.

GMO labeling is already happening. Manufacturers are labeling for European markets, but not for our markets. The resistance to telling us specifically what is in our food and their product is very suspicious. No harm to us? Do we scientifically know this yet? Do you really trust the government to tell us what is harmful and not harmful to us? Just suppose, for a moment, the Food and Drug Administration is wrong. (Gasp!) We own our bodies. We have a right to know, and choose what we put into our bodies. Responsible manufacturers are doing so voluntarily. Choose your food wisely.

I will disagree on one main statement in this letter. The cost to the producers. Producers of any product with a label must periodically reorder labels. To change a label now days is a simple addition of letters in a digitable format. No longer are dies made that cost money. Rather than cry it will increase production costs, explain what the GMO's are and leave out the untrue parts. Also in the HB660 it states the Department of Agriculture, Markets, and Food says it would need one additional inspector at the cost of approximately $81,219 in FY 2015 and $65,901 in FY 2016 plus mileage. I'm not sure why another inspector is even needed but it is still a far cry from $500,000. Makes one believe Mr. Dumais is just another lobbyist saying whatever he is paid to say.

When I was a child, DDT was sprayed on our streets for bugs and we'd run through the fog. Now it is banned. When my children were little, our milk was filled with hormones and antibiotics and now they have been removed. Then came into being the hydrogenated oils and where have they gone? If you take high frustose corn syrup out of your diet then consume a drink with hit in, you'll spit it out for sure. My son was diagnosed with a serious and life threatening autoimmune disease, a nomenclature for health problems with little understanding. I can't help but think he's suffering from all the chemicals in our world today. The rate of autism has increased, as has cancer, obesity, and so many other health problems. We need to think twice about the effects of GMO.

If genetically modified foods are so terrific, then why should anyone object to consumers knowing about them? The truth is that such modification mainly benefits big agribusiness, you know, the kind of business that draws big investors -- like the ones who want to run politics and banks and government and everything else they can get their greedy paws on. The "no harm whatsoever" claim is a tad hyperbolic, as people who pay attention have been able to learn of the resistance of these new strains to controls -- not unlike the development of new forms of disease that are resistant to treatment. And the new plant forms spread despite attempts at control, and encroach into other crops and take over, not unlike good old milfoil in our lakes. The commentator is not the one from whom to get objective information about what is good for our food.

If GMO food isn't different then why does Monsanto have a patent on it? There are enough questions concerning GMO foods safety that labeling is just the beginning. Ive heard enough to stay away from it. Just like other Monsanto products(agent orange), the truth eventually comes out.

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