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My Turn: Inaccurate information from grocers in anti-labeling argument

Re “GMO labeling: bad for business, bad for shoppers” (Monitor Forum, Jan. 8):

Once again, the president and CEO of the New Hampshire Grocers Association, John Dumais, has repeated inaccurate information about GMOs and the New Hampshire labeling bill, HB 660.

Dumais says we have had genetically modified ingredients in 70-85 percent of the food we eat “for decades, without doing any harm whatsoever.” In fact, unlabeled GMOs have been in the general food supply just since the mid-1990s, and if they have caused any harm we would not know it. Because these foods are unlabeled, it is a challenge to trace unintended consequences back to a GMO source.

Genetically engineered seeds have not uniformly increased yields, and there has been a 527 million pound increase in herbicide use because of the emergence of weeds resistant to GMO herbicides like glyphosate, commercially known as Roundup. Many farmers must now use more toxic herbicides to control weeds.

To encourage the swift commercialization of GMOs in the early days of biotechnology, the FDA was persuaded to accept the nonscientific principle of “substantial equivalence” as an assurance of GMO safety and since the inception of GMOS has let biotech corporations test their own products and vouch for their safety.

The FDA does not test GMOs independently.

Dumais wants consumers to believe that there is scientific consensus regarding the safety of GMOs. There is not. Nearly 300 scientists signed a 2013 statement issued by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility declaring that “The claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist.”

Dumais has clearly not read HB 660 with care. Labeling would only go into effect in New Hampshire when five New England states have passed labeling laws so no food company would be forced to “produce special labels just for New Hampshire.” Labeling does not increase the cost of food. It is a routine cost of doing business, so labeled groceries would not cost more. Restaurants and soup kitchens and homeless shelters are exempt, so their food supplies would be unaffected.

Oversight and enforcement of this bill would cost about $128,000, not the inflated, inaccurate figure cited by Dumais. As for California and Washington state, labeling initiatives lost by very narrow margins even though they were overspent by a multimillion-dollar influx of corporate funding to support disinformation campaigns similar to the effort being waged by Dumais.

There is scientific uncertainty regarding the safety and environmental impact of GMOs. Ninety percent of the 500 New Hampshire voters surveyed in October by the Mellman Group said they want GMO foods labeled. If the companies producing and selling GMO products are convinced of their safety, why would they not be proud to label their products and why should they not respect the New Hampshire consumers’ right to know what is in their food? These same companies respect that right in 64 other countries and already label their products in those countries.

Dumais is not listening to his own customers. If he were, he would support HB 660.

(Janet Ward lives in Contoocook.)

Legacy Comments2

"To encourage the swift commercialization of GMOs in the early days of biotechnology, the FDA was persuaded to accept the nonscientific principle of “substantial equivalence” as an assurance of GMO safety and since the inception of GMOS has let biotech corporations test their own products and vouch for their safety." This statement is almost true. Michael Taylor coined that term when he worked for the FDA, he then went back to Monsanto, and today as we all know he is the "Food Czar" at the FDA. Other than this slight correction, I agree with all you've written. Thank you.

Thanks for setting the record straight with examples and specific responses. Now let's see how the onslaught of corporate money factors into the decision-making.

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