Tuesday, February 9, 2016

GMO labeling bill worthy of House consideration, approval

Call your representatives and tell them to pass this bill, especially if you have children. We all have a right to choose what to and what not to put in our diets and all food should carry labels to identify all ingredients natural or otherwise.

Sentinel Editorial

One of the truest sayings we know is this: Knowledge is power. We’ve noted often, for example, that would-be voters should take the time to learn what they can about the candidates and issues before heading to the polls, and that citizens deserve to know what government officials — elected and appointed — are doing with public money and resources, the better to make informed decisions about those entrusted with those resources. In the same vein, we’ve railed against attempts by some lawmakers and governors to trample scientific research or ban the mention of certain subjects — such as climate change or evolution — they don’t support.
And we believe consumers deserve access to all relevant information about what they buy, especially anything they put into their bodies.
Wednesday, the N.H. House will take up HB 1674, which would require anyone producing or distributing foods altered through the use of genetically modified organisms to label those products as such. The bill takes great care to define what counts as a genetically modified food and who is or isn’t responsible for making sure those foods are labeled.
The bill is similar to those passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine and proposed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It does not, as critics charge, add to the cost of labeling food products. It does not apply to restaurants and it exempts farmers whose animals’ feed contains GMO or who are not also a retailer or manufacturer. There are other exemptions intended to protect specific areas — like alcohol or foods for medicinal use — and to keep a minimal amount of GMO-related material from disrupting an entire product line.
As did a similar bill in 2014, HB 1674 comes to the House floor from the Environment and Agriculture Committee, carrying a 12-7 recommendation of “inexpedient to legislate.” That recommendation is based largely on the prospect of a lawsuit from chemical and agricultural firms if it passes, and that enforcing the law would cost the state money.
There would be a cost involved in enforcing HB 1674, but it’s one we feel the state has an interest in bearing. As for the idea of threatened or implied legal action, if lawmakers are concerned about that, they ought never to make new law at all.
Rep. John O’Connor, R-Derry, writing for the majority, also cynically raises the idea that companies are free to label their products as GMO-free if they want to capture sales from concerned consumers. This is true, but the point here is to assure consumers, not further confuse them. Consumers need to know that if something might contain a substance they don’t want, it will be clearly marked; not that it might be marked if the maker feels it has something to gain by doing so.
The rationale for HB 1674 is apparent in the first line from the first section: “New Hampshire consumers have the right to know whether the foods they purchase were produced with genetic engineering so they can make informed purchasing decisions.”
Further, the bill notes: “Manipulating genes via genetic engineering and inserting them into organisms is an imprecise process. The results are not always predictable or controllable.”
We believe HB 1674 is not only completely expedient, but necessary, to legislate. The bottom line is the science is still out on GMOs, despite claims to the contrary by companies and trade organizations that profit from GMO sales. That doesn’t mean they’re a danger, but neither does it mean they’re safe. In the absence of conclusive evidence, consumers ought to have the ability to choose for themselves whether to consume products made with GMOs. And the only way to make that choice is to know for certain which products those are.

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