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New Hampshire House kills GMO labeling bill

Last modified: 1/23/2014 11:50:30 PM
The House killed a bill yesterday that would have required labels on foods that are the product of genetic engineering.

Several House members said yesterday that they heard from many constituents who supported the bill because they fear that there are health risks associated with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. But House members debated those health concerns yesterday, with the bill’s opponents arguing that the risks have been exaggerated.

“There’s a lot of hysterical momentum behind this anti-GMO movement,” said Rep. Jim Parison, a New Ipswich Republican. “It’s sort of like an angry mob seeking justice for a crime just by lynching the first possible suspect.”

Parison encouraged the House to kill the bill, even if it would be unpopular with some constituents. He said the labeling would not necessarily protect consumers, and it would hurt business owners. The bill would hold retailers – not manufacturers or food processors – responsible for labeling products.

The House voted, 185-162, to kill the bill.

Supporters said the bill would have allowed consumers to know what is in their food and make their own decisions about the potential risks associated with GMOs.

“Our constituents have spoken about safety concerns,” said Rep. Peter Bixby, a Dover Democrat. “Mandatory labeling would empower these individuals to make their own decisions.”

Rep. Tim Smith, a Manchester Democrat, said he heard from many constituents who are in favor of GMO labeling. He read a letter from one woman who said, “I just want to know what goes into the food I give my children, ages 3 and 8.”

Other opponents of GMO labeling said the state did not have the ability to enforce it. Rep. Bob Haefner, a Hudson Republican, said New Hampshire cannot regulate food that comes from other states and suggested the bill could be challenged in court as unconstitutional.

“I will never argue about a right to know,” Haefner said. “But . . . this is a federal issue. It is not a state issue.”

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)


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