Metro

Proposed bill demands mandatory GMO labeling in R.I.

Proposition, similar to those in Maine and Connecticut, responds to increase in public awareness

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, January 29, 2015

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, almost three quarters of all supermarket foods contain genetically modified ingredients.

Legislation introduced Jan. 15 would require genetically engineered products in Rhode Island to be clearly labeled “produced with genetic engineering,” and would also specify what the term “genetically engineered product” — which has multiple definitions — would mean in the state. Rep. Raymond Hull, D-Providence and Rep. Dennis Canario, D-Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton separately introduced legislation on genetically modified organisms, though the two will likely collaborate in the future, Hull said.

Similar bills have been passed in Maine and Connecticut but will not take effect until comparable legislation is passed in other states, according to a General Assembly press release. For the bill proposed in Maine to take effect, five nearby states must pass similar legislation, while Connecticut’s law is contingent on the passage of GMO bills in enough northeastern states so that their combined populations include 20 million residents, according to the press release.

The announcement of Rhode Island’s bill arrives during a period of increased media scrutiny of GMOs, following the Jan. 13 dissolution of the European Union-wide ban on genetically modified farming, which allowed national governments to impose their own restrictions.

“I’ve introduced this bill for four years,” Hull said. “It gets just so far and then it stops. But there is more momentum now than there has been in the past. We’re very optimistic.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates the disclosure requirements of foods, declares that there is no meaningful difference between GMO and non-GMO foods.

The department also sets standards for labeling of ingredients, including artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and sweeteners. It stipulates that fruit juices must be labeled “fresh” or “made from concentrate,” and producers are not allowed to use the term “juice” if the product is not made of 100 percent juice. It also mandates that specific labels such as “fresh,” “frozen,” “fresh frozen” and “frozen fresh” be assigned to products such as peas.

Around the country and in Rhode Island, labels exist to specify non-GMO foods and certified organic foods, which by definition are not genetically modified.

Studies have shown that genetically modified crops may exhibit increased drought resistance, higher pesticide tolerance and increased nutritional content.

“We are moving into a world that is more food-stressed over the next 50 years due to climate change and population growth,” said Rep. Arthur Handy, D-Cranston, a co-sponsor of Hull’s bill and chairperson of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “Genetically modified foods may play a roll in combating this stress.”

Other studies link genetically modified foods to decreased antibiotic efficacy, more frequent use of pesticides and unapproved food additives and allergens.

The longterm implications of genetically modified foods may be difficult to foresee since they have only been around for a few decades. “There have been no longitudinal studies conducted on the health impacts of genetically engineered foods on humans,” said Jim Leahy, executive director of Citizens for GMO Labeling, a grassroots movement dedicated to labeling genetically modified products.

Approximately 70 percent of supermarket foods contain genetically modified ingredients, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I think that consumers ought to have the right to know exactly what they are purchasing,” Handy said, adding that “unless we can get to a point where we are positive that everything is safe, it would be better for us to be informed.”

GMO labeling is practiced in 65 countries, Leahy said. Many polls — including some conducted by the New York Times, MSNBC, Reuters and ABC News — all indicate that more than 90 percent of Americans are in favor of GMO labeling.

With issues such as gun control and GMO labeling, there is a large public majority that supports government regulation, but vocal and powerful groups have hindered the ability of policymakers to enact change, Handy said. Opponents of labeling genetically modified products “are being much more vocal,” he said, adding that “unless folks express themselves more vigorously on this issue, we’re more likely to go with the folks we hear from.”

“A central concern of manufacturers and producers is that labeling sends a signal that GMOs are bad,” Handy said.

“They are worried that it may cut into their bottom line,” Hull said.

Hull’s proposed bill would not impose GMO labeling on alcoholic beverages, food provided in any restaurant, farm products sold by a farmer or food derived from a non-genetically modified animal fed or injected with engineered foods or drugs, according to the bill’s text.

“It doesn’t mean that we can’t revisit those caveats after the bill is passed,” Hull said.

Looking ahead, Hull said he would “probably join forces” with Canario and his bill, though he added that only his own bill addresses concerns such as liquor companies’ use of genetically modified corn in producing alcohol.

  • Debbie Owen

    GMOs have been genetically engineered to withstand repeated applications of herbicide and/or to produce it’s own pesticide. These poisons do not wash off and they are in many of our food products. Label GMOs, everyone has the right to know!

    • Viriato77

      Cites Please. Peer-reviewed science, not a link to an activist website

      • Martin Dagoberto

        Basic facts.

      • Peer reviewed science. Typical Troll Talk…. You guys know that all your peer-reviewed science is completely biased by the industry right?

        • Viriato77

          You’re adorable when you try to logic.

          • You’re adorable when you attempt proper grammar

          • Viriato77

            Since you failed to recognize sarcastic irony your retort pretty much backfired, enjoy!

  • This is a hilarious article. A rollicking good read!

    Everyone knows GMOs are harmless. So why label them exactly?

    • Debbie Owen

      That isn’t true, there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs. The fact that the GMO biotech companies spend millions of dollars to fight GMO labeling laws implies that GMOs are harmful.

      • Right… sorry about that Debbie. I was basing my assertion that GMOs are harmless on the complete lack of evidence to the contrary.

        • Complete lack of evidence because your owner told you to say that.

          • My owner. That’s hilarious. You must be referring to my wife.

          • Give her my condolences. You have to be paid by someone to constantly be pushing for this dangerous technology. Do you have children? If you read my other post you will see that we are headed for serious trouble if we don’t do something now. And how are you going to feel when your family looks at you and says “Why did you do this to us?” I know I will have a clear conscience. My kids are proud of me.

          • The first commercialized GMO crop was developed by a public university. Most GMO crops are non-proprietary.

            Listen to my latest interview on AgriTalk and see how wrong you are: https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1422579428&x-yt-cl=85114404&v=KA-k2qhVUfI

        • Carson

          There’s plenty of evidence if you open your eyes. Walk down Main Street and check out your fellow citizens. Half of all adults has a chronic illness. And our children are sick too. You have to be stupid, willfully ignorant, evil or lacking in empathy to not notice something is seriously wrong our health.

          • I see… so I’m either stupid, willfully ignorant, evil or lacking in empathy. Well thanks so much for providing some choices for me.

        • Debbie Owen

          There is a lot of evidence that shows GMOs are harmful to us and the environment, but in any case why would you not want others to have the freedom of an informed choice provided by labels? No one should have the right to decide what someone else should know or should not know about the food they are feeding to their families. Besides, it is just unethical, let people have the freedom to decide for themselves, label GMOs!

          • People already have a choice. It was established in 2002 by an act of Congress at the behest of the very same organic stakeholders who now demand that GMOs be labelled and banned.

          • Debbie Owen

            I said an informed choice, many people still don’t know if it is GMO without labels. Don’t be afraid of a simple label.

          • No… you mean “spoon-fed” choice.
            Please help me government!
            Try helping yourself Debbie.

          • Debbie Owen

            That makes no sense at all. We are talking about a simple label so that everyone has the freedom of choice. We live in a country where we have always had to fight for freedoms and now we have to fight for the freedom to know what is in the food we pay for and feed to our families. There is no excuse at all for keeping people in the dark about the food they ingest into their own bodies!

          • You do no strike me as someone who’s “in the dark” Debbie.
            Stop feigning naïveté.

          • Debbie Owen

            We aren’t just talking about me, we are talking about the people of our country and many of them still don’t know about GMOs, stop pretending you don’t know that. Not all organic or non-GMO products are labeled as such so we have to assume it is GMO and that limits our choices. Labeling GMOs would be fair for all, why are you against people having the freedom of an informed choice?

          • I’m sorry but I honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t know about GMOs.

            If the label doesn’t say “Certified Organic,” assume it contains GMOs.

            Simple.

  • Tara

    People have a right to choose to buy food or not based on their preferences. There is broad support for GMO Labeling for a variety of reasons, including not wanting to support a product that leads to dramatic increases in pesticide applications. Most food labels don’t list harmful ingredients – we tend to prohibit the use of products that cause harm!

    • hyperzombie

      including not wanting to support a product that leads to dramatic increases in pesticide applications

      It leads to LESS pesticide use not more….

      • Martin Dagoberto

        527 million pound increase between 1996 and 2011 according to the USDA’s own data… as reported by Reuters (October 2012), see: ”
        Pesticide use ramping up as GMO crop technology backfires: study”

        • hyperzombie
          • Martin Dagoberto

            This very useful report from the USDA explains indicates that non-herbicide pesticides applications have decreased. But herbicides are more generally considered a pesticide (weeds are pests) and this same report explains that herbicide use has increased.

            “. HT [herbicide tolerant crop] adoption likely reduced herbicide use initially, but herbicide resistance among weed populations may have induced farmers to raise application rates in recent years, thus offsetting some of the economic and environmental advantages of HT corn adoption regarding
            herbicide use.”

            also, of note, from the same report:

            “an overreliance on glyphosate and a reduction in the diversity of weed management practices adopted by crop producers have contributed to the evolution of glyphosate resistance in 14 weed species and biotypes in the United States.”

          • Guest

            Benbrook, 2011 (http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24):

            “Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%. The magnitude of increases in herbicide use on herbicide-resistant hectares has dwarfed the reduction in insecticide use on Bt crops over the past 16 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”

          • hyperzombie

            You do know that Benbrook works for the Organic industry right?

          • Martin Dagoberto

            “publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service”

          • Martin Dagoberto

            Benbrook, 2012, findings based on publicly available USDA data:

            “Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%. The magnitude of increases in herbicide use on herbicide-resistant hectares has dwarfed the reduction in insecticide use on Bt crops over the past 16 years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”

            http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24

          • hyperzombie

            You folks are nuts,,,crazy assed nuts,, you worry about the 2 least damaging pesticides, It would be like Climate change folks worrying about mopeds, and ignoring coal fired power plants….

          • Martin Dagoberto

            (obvious troll is obvious) #winning

          • We are nuts, cause we want a clean sustainable food supply that won’t destroy our pollinators? Yes, we are nuts.

          • StopGMO

            I guess I am nuts too for wanting non-pesticide laden, self producing poisons in my food. Now how nuts is that?!? I truly wish the pro-GMO side was right, I wouldn’t be here, but unfortunately they are not.

          • hyperzombie

            clean sustainable food supply that won’t destroy our pollinators?

            then you should support GMOs. Far less insecticide is used for GMOs

          • You are such an idiot — BT corn is registered as an insecticide! The damn plant kills the insects, and the pollen kills the pollinators. But you already knew that you stupid troll.

          • hyperzombie

            Bt doesn’t harm bees and other pollinators, it only harms some grubs and caterpillars.

            Bt is also the number one “Organic” insecticide.

            http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/xerces-organic-approved-pesticides-factsheet.pdf

          • It’s completely different when applied ON the plant then when genetically engineered into the plant, but you knew that as well. I suppose you also think neonicotinoids are also safe.

          • hyperzombie

            It’s completely different when applied ON the plant then when genetically engineered into the plant,

            Yeah it is different, when it is sprayed on crops it kills all the susceptible insects including the beneficial ones, and when it is incorporated into the crop it only kills the grubs that are eating the plant. Also when they spray they use 10x more Bt as often as once a week.

          • JoeFarmer

            Given that Bt is safe and only kills targeted lepidoptera, which is a more sustainable method of delivering Bt to the field?

            An organic row crop farmer using a diesel tractor to make multiple applications of Bt solution, or a farmer that uses biotech corn that naturally produces the Bt?

          • hyperzombie

            USDA explains indicates that non-herbicide pesticides applications have decreased

            And by how much???

            . and this same report explains that herbicide use has increased.

            Are you a plant or an animal? Herbicides kill plants insecticides kill animals, now which one should you be concerned about?

            14 weed species and biotypes in the United States.”

            Wow 14 crazy, unlike the 124 that are resistant to iszomox ore the 2000 that are resistant to other herbicides.

          • Martin Dagoberto

            Glyphosate use has increased such that the EPA recently decided to increase tolerable limits of the residues in our food.

            I’m an animal, but most of my cells are bacterial, including my gut flora. While my animal cells lack the shikimate metabolic pathway disrupted in plants by glyphosate, my gut flora DO have that pathway.

            New evidence is coming out every week on the health risks associated with RoundUp and 2,4-D. There are no shortage of peer-reviewed articles suggesting serious non-target impacts of these herbicides.

          • hyperzombie

            my gut flora DO have that pathway.

            You have plants growing in your guts?

          • Martin Dagoberto

            From the wiki:

            The shikimic acid pathway is a seven step metabolic route used by bacteria, fungi, algae, parasites and plants for the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids (phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan). Thispathway is not found in animals, hence the products of this pathway represent essential amino acids that must be obtained from the animal’s diet.

          • Martin Dagoberto

            “The shikimic acid pathway converts simple carbohydrate precursors derived from glycolysis and the pentose phosphate pathway to the aromatic amino acids (Herrmann and Weaver, 1999). One of the pathway intermediates is shikimic acid, which has given its name to this whole sequence of reactions. The well-known, broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate (available commercially as Roundup) kills plants by blocking a step in this pathway” http://5e.plantphys.net/article.php?ch=t&id=23

            SCIENCE!

          • Viriato77

            Not science, just regurgitation of what you looked up and now you’re taking it without context to support your leap of logic.

          • God you are ignorant.

      • tara

        That is simply not true if you review EPA data. It could lead to less, but it doesn’t because pesticides can be applied without concern for killing the subject plant. Additionally, as weeds become resistant, it takes more pesticides or more concentrated applications to work. Other than talking points, there is no data to suggest otherwise.

        • hyperzombie

          applied without concern for killing the subject plant.

          Nope, they are herbicide tolerant, not resistant.

          No data,,,,,LOL

          From the USDA

          http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/1282246/err162.pdf

          Additionally, as weeds become resistant, it takes more pesticides or more concentrated applications to work.

          LOL,,,funny, Nope it doesn’t work that way. Why would a farmer spray more if they are resistant? Do you think farmers like wasting 1000s of dollars?

          • Tara

            It doesn’t work that way? Weeds don’t get resistant? Darwin was wrong? LOL. So much for science? What a troll.

          • hyperzombie

            Weeds don’t get resistant?

            Well of course weeds get resistant, but farmers don’t spray more to kill them that would be as stupid as trying to drown a fish with more water….

  • RobertWager
  • UnnaturallyBusyComments

    Do people just have google alerts for GMO? Who are all you people? Why are you on a college newspaper website?

    • Carson

      Do you know that your generation would be the first generation to eat GMOs for almost their entire life. If you think you’re eating “regular” food you’re not. GMOs were not on the grocery shelves 20 years ago. And now 80% of packaged foods in a convention supermarket contains GMOs. All of Europe, Russia, Japan and Australia label GMOs. Russia has a complete ban on GMOs. Germany is thinking of banning GMOs too. Please do your research especially if you’re a female and want to start a family one day. #labelgmos #boycottgmos http://www.gmofreeusa.org

      • Stoopid

        GMOs are definitely harmful to my brain, because I can see no way in which your comment is a reply to mine!

        • And to add on to what Carson said, according to the rat study done by Seralini, the worst tumors started showing up in the rats around 11 months, so if you calculate that in human years, it would be a person around 35-40 years old. So we have another ten years before we really start seeing the devastation brought on by GMOs. And by then it will be too late. We need to take action NOW! Especially the younger generation. We are fighting for you!!!!

          • Viriato77

            Ooops. Citing Seralini? Any shred of credibility or benefit of doubt just crumble to ash.

  • Perplexed

    I take issue with how the reporter is paraphrasing Representative Handy. “Studies” show GMO crops are needed to feed the world’s “stressed” populations. It sounds like an ad for Big Agra, almost certainly the source of the “studies”. The reporter than goes on to quote Representative Handy that gun control regulations and GMO labeling platforms are overwhelmingly supported by the masses, only held back from passing by special interest groups. The studies I have seen appear to show people believe the current gun regulations are about right and they not want additional gun control regulations. I see large corporations and overt government control as the “special interest groups” of Representative Handy. Therefore, I am strongly pro labeling and pro gun. The reporters juxtapositioning of the two issues in the article seems to indicate that he also believes in additional gun control as a matter of course. I do not believe the gun control issue should have been included in an article about GMO labeling.