R.I. enters national GMO debate

Bill requires labeling of GMO products, but opponents argue modified foods pose minimal risk

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Rep. Dennis Canario, D-Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton, has introduced a bill that would require food containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled “Produced with Genetic Engineering,” according to a General Assembly press release.  The bill was heard Wednesday by the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare.

Genetically modified ingredients can be found in approximately 70 percent of food products sold in supermarkets nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“A genetically engineered food is a plant or meat product that has had its DNA artificially altered in a laboratory by genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria,” according to the press release.

Connecticut and Maine are the only states to have passed similar legislation, though these bills contain provisions that prevent them from taking effect until neighboring states also adopt labeling laws, according to a press release from the Center for Food Safety.

Thirty other states are also currently debating labeling legislation, Canario said.

“This is a right-to-know issue,” Canario said. “Most people don’t know about genetically modified organisms, and if the package is clearly marked that it contains GMOs, people can make decisions on whether or not to consume it.”

Companies should be required to post labels with information about GMOs, just as they have been required to label foods’ nutritional facts, said Gretchen Gerlach ’14, an environmental studies concentrator. “When they first started labeling food as organic, a lot of people didn’t know what it meant, but as it was in the media, people definitely learned about it,” Gerlach said.

The bill’s opponents have expressed concern that labeling costs could raise prices for consumers.  The extra labeling on GMO products could “cost families $450 a year,” said Mandy Hagan, vice president of state affairs and grassroots for the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Companies would have to spend money to “go through additional verification” from a third party in order to confirm that their products do not include genetically modified ingredients, Hagan said.

The bill’s advocates often express skepticism that labelling costs are at the heart of the food industry’s opposition, painting their detractors as intent on keeping consumers in the dark about the use of a new and supposedly untested practice. “We believe that many companies would rather remove GMOs than admit they use them,” said Jeffrey Smith, founding executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology.

Substituting genetically modified ingredients would drive prices up due to the expense of alternative ingredients, as well as the research that would have to go into developing alternative agricultural techniques, Hagan said. “For some ingredients there are so little non-GM products available that it would be difficult to not use them.”

“The labeling provides the easiest means for the industry to participate and the consumers to receive information,” Smith said.

Many consumers are concerned about GMOs’ possible long-term health effects, Smith said.  “We believe GMOs are a major contributor to a variety of diseases in the United States,” he said.  “If it turns out GMOs are in fact contributing to these problems and they are being fed to the entire population, it becomes a very serious issue indeed. There is evidence to make it a top priority investigation.”

But many scientists say the debate over the health effects of GMOs has been settled. “The FDA and National Academy of Sciences have found GMOs to be safe,” Hagan said. “Independent studies have not been able to find any negative effects.”

“Food and food ingredients derived from GE plants must adhere to the same safety requirements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that apply to food and food ingredients derived from traditionally bred plants,” according an informational posting from the Food and Drug Administration. Developers of GE plants are required to submit a safety assessment to the FDA and are encouraged to voluntarily consult with the FDA before marketing their new product.

“Most people are worried about human health and with GMOs, that might be the last thing you should be worried about,” said Dawn King, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies. “There’s a huge scare that there will be a loss of biodiversity in crops.”

“It’s much more than a human health issue. This is really a right-to-know legislation and honestly, I do believe there could be good and bad things from GMOs,” King said.

Currently, 64 other countries have either placed bans on GMOs or have adopted similar labeling laws, Smith said.

“I absolutely want labeling because I want the right to choose,” King said. “That’s about as American as you can get.”

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  1. Martin Dagoberto says:

    “But many scientists say the debate over the health effects of GMOs has been settled. “The FDA and National Academy of Sciences have found GMOs to be safe,’ Hagan said. ‘Independent studies have not been able to find any negative effects.’

    Hagan is not a scientist. She is a talking head for an industry lobbying group.

    There is no scientific consensus on GMO safety, and the government has never performed or required any safety testing of GMO foods. The industry funds its own research to prove GMOs are safe while aggressively discrediting any independent research challenging that belief. GMO foods have been linked to digestive disorders, infertility, immune problems and cancer, and these studies warrant further research. With allergies at an all-time high, mothers should be able to choose if they want their children to be part of the GMO food experiment.

    Worldwide, nearly 300 scientists and doctors, including the developer of the first commercialized GM crop, have signed on to a recent statement citing serious safety concerns with GMOs.

    Also, companies change their labeling all the time, and dozens of other countries have already introduced GMO labeling without increasing food costs. Independent reports have shown costs associated with GMO labeling to be negligible, less than $2.00 per person/year. GMO labeling won’t burden local retailers.

    • RobertWager says:

      You should read this document from the AMA/AAAS to learn the real information on GE labeling

      • One of the key words in that link is “overt”. During the last 18 years, the health of this country has been diminished significantly and and because there is such bad science behind this huge effort to make money on chemicals that are poured in these crops, there is less attention, in fact, no attention on controlled studies of the effects from these foods. We do know that the studies that have been conducted show indications of big troubles coming for the American public and, in fact, may already be here in the form of exponential increases in allergies (life threathening in some cases), a huge array of digestive disorders, autism (possibly), cancer, etc., etc. These studies are not to be ignored even though they are maligned by the industries that soooo want them to go away.

        There is “NO” scientific conscensus on whether these foods are safe. The AMA wouldn’t know anything about nutrition and the effects of it on our health. They don’t teach their doctors anything about it. They just can’t prove it. Let’s not forget that the FDA’s own scientists warned that these GMO foods should not be allowed to enter the food chain until they were tested independently on a long term basis and not done by the manufacturers of these products.

        Thus, we need labeling to help us have a choice about what we eat.

        • RobertWager says:

          As usual the critics have nothing but disregarding the mountains of evidence of the safety of GE crops and derived food. Every food safety authority in the world agrees on the safety of GE crops, every health authority, every National Academy of Science. But you don’t think that counts. fine have a nice life we have nothing to discuss.

          • The evidence in Monsanto’s statutory 90 day trials on corn is:
            it disappears half the rats and gives the rest inflammatory kidney and liver disease. The rest of your “data” and “mountain of evidence” is a delusion

        • This guy doesn’t even read his own sources

  2. RobertWager says:

    I am a scientist (no financial horse in this race) and these statements cover the real experts opinions:

    “There is no evidence that unique hazards exist either in the use of rDNA techniques or in the movement of genes between unrelated organisms.” US NAS

    A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research

    Food Safety:

    “The main conclusion to be
    drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects,
    covering a period of more than 25 years of
    research, and involving
    more than 500
    independent research groups,
    is that biotechnology,
    and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than
    e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.”

    “The GM products that are currently on the international market have all passed risk assessments conducted by national authorities. These different assessments in general follow the same basic principles, including an assessment of environmental and human health risk. These assessments are thorough, they have not indicated any risk to human health.”
    (WHO 2013)

    “There is no validated evidence that GM crops have greater adverse impact on health and the environment than any other technology used in plant breeding…There is compelling evidence that GM crops can contribute to sustainable development goals with benefits to farmers, consumers, the environment and the economy. ” European National Academies of Science Advisory Council 2013

    “In general, the committee finds that genetic-engineering technology has produced substantial net environmental and economic benefits to U.S. farmers compared with non-GE crops in conventional agriculture.” NAS 2012

    “The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National
    Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other
    respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same
    conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients
    derived from GM crops is no riskier than
    consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by
    conventional plant improvement techniques.” (AAAS 2012)

    “The overwhelming body of scientific evidence continues to support the safety of genetically modified food and feed products in general…However, whenever new information concerning the safety of an authorized product arises, this new data is carefully reviewed.” Health Canada 2012

    • Paul Lundbohm says:

      “Foods and feeds derived from GM crops must be shown, prior to commercialization, to be as safe as those derived from conventional crops that have an established history of safe use. This principle was initially referred to as substantial equivalence, but is now more typically called comparative safety assessment (Codex Alimentarius Commission, 2009; ILSI, 2004). It is based on the concept that it is not possible to demonstrate with certainty that any food is absolutely safe, but acknowledges that many foods have a long history of safe consumption. The comparison of a GM crop to its most closely related conventional counterpart, based on agronomic performance metrics and comprehensive, crop-specific compositional analysis of known nutrients, anti-nutrients, and toxicants for that crop species, is the primary basis of the safety assessment.”

      This sounds more like guess work than science. If there is no harm to humans why not lable it, indeed, why not tout the so-called benefits. The real benefits I see are to Monsanto and other biotec firms monopolizing seeds as well as round up ready profits. One billion tons of round up ready a year? Monsanto lied about it being biodegradable (lied about Aniston, AL) why would anyone trust what they say about GMOs?

      • RobertWager says:

        Please Paul tell this forum what test not already done you would like to see added and why? guess work indeed.

        • Paul Lundbohm says:

          Reverse that and show this forum ALL the tests, data and references that already have been done (specifically the double blind placebo controlled long term studies on humans since 1996) on the safety of GMOs to humans.

          • They can’t even account for half the rats in their 90 day rat trials. See Pub Med search terms: Hammond + safety+ assurance.

            There is not a single blinded tests anywhere in the literature because those would eliminate corporate bias.

            Tobacco junk-science is what they have.

        • Simple. A urinalysis with a protein creatinine ratio in the statutory 90 day rodent trials which are not designed to rule out kidney toxicity. A bilirubin and a bile acid to rule out hepatobiliary disease, likewise either not done at all, or reported on 4/20 animals. A through investigation of allergenicity including tests on 25 serums samples to rule out cross reactivity of CP4EPSPS and der p 7. Proteomics to detect new allergens, e.g. 50Da gamma zein newly expressed in GE corn.

          Your safety standards are laughable-you are promoting tobacco science.

    • Almost always reviewed by the “Fox in the henhouse…”

    • You are not a scientist. You are a puppet whose talents are cut’n paste of meaningless position statements. Who do you think you are kidding with your Gish Gallops?

  3. It is our right to know, and GMA,
    Monsanto, and many other junk food manufacturers are spreading lies.
    Labeling won’t cost the consumer more, they change label designs all
    the time. Verification is unnecessary – just don’t use GMO crops
    in the ingredients (GMO corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, etc.). There
    are many non-GMO substitutes that can be farmed and produced cheaper
    than GMO varieties, with less chemicals. The FDA and the Acadamy of
    sciences has not done adequate testing on GMO foods in order to
    declare them safe – studies are paid for and done by the GMO
    companies themselves who have a vested interest in making a profit,
    not human welfare.

    Become informed about GMOs:

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