For Immediate Release
February 11, 2014
Empire State Council of Agricultural Organizations Opposes Mandatory GMO Labeling
Statewide coalition says bill would negatively impact farmers, retailers, consumers
(Albany, N.Y.) Members of the Empire State Council of Agricultural Organizations (CAO) today released a Memorandum of Opposition to S3835A/A3525A—‘Legislation Mandating Labeling of Food Derived from Genetically Engineered Crops’. If passed, the proposed legislation would impart unnecessary and costly burdens on farmers, food manufacturers and producers and ultimately consumers across the state.
The Coalition is calling on members of the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee to vote down this legislation.
Genetic modification has been part of our food system for centuries. Hundreds of studies from around the world have proven that genetically engineered foods are as safe as those not genetically engineered and these studies have been endorsed by groups like the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration, and the American Medical Association.
“This legislation will increase food costs for consumers, potentially limit the availability of certain foods in the marketplace, and cost tax payers millions of dollars in implementation and enforcement,” said Jeff Williams, CAO Chairman. “Consumers already have a choice in the food market. Organic foods do not contain GMOs and are often labeled as GMO Free.”
Members of the coalition will be in Albany on Tuesday to discuss the risks of passing such legislation with lawmakers as part of the organization’s lobby day and will be available to speak to the media.
About The Empire State Council Of Agricultural Organizations:
The Empire State Council of Agricultural Organizations is an association of more than two dozen agricultural groups representing the majority of production and agribusiness organizations in New York State.
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.
Labels for GMO Foods Are a Bad Idea
Mandatory labels for genetically modified foods are a bad idea
By The Editors | Friday, September 6, 2013
This past June, Connecticut and Maine became the first states to pass bills requiring labels on all foods made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In November 2012 California voters rejected the similar Proposition 37 by a narrow majority of 51.4 percent. “All we want is a simple label/For the food that’s on our table,” chanted marchers before the elections. The issue, however, is in no way simple.
We have been tinkering with our food’s DNA since the dawn of agriculture. By selectively breeding plants and animals with the most desirable traits, our predecessors transformed organisms’ genomes, turning a scraggly grass into plump-kerneled corn, for example. For the past 20 years Americans have been eating plants in which scientists have used modern tools to insert a gene here or tweak a gene there, helping the crops tolerate drought and resist herbicides. Around 70 percent of processed foods in the U.S. contain genetically modified ingredients.
Instead of providing people with useful information, mandatory GMO labels would only intensify the misconception that so-called Frankenfoods endanger people’s health [see “The Truth about Genetically Modified Food”]. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization and the exceptionally vigilant European Union agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods. Compared with conventional breeding techniques—which swap giant chunks of DNA between one plant and another—genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, is less likely to produce an unexpected result. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested all the GMOs on the market to determine whether they are toxic or allergenic. They are not. (The GMO-fearing can seek out “100 Percent Organic” products, indicating that a food contains no genetically modified ingredients, among other requirements.)
Many people argue for GMO labels in the name of increased consumer choice. On the contrary, such labels have limited people’s options. In 1997, a time of growing opposition to GMOs in Europe, the E.U. began to require them. By 1999, to avoid labels that might drive customers away, most major European retailers had removed genetically modified ingredients from products bearing their brand. Major food producers such as Nestlé followed suit. Today it is virtually impossible to find GMOs in European supermarkets.
Americans who oppose genetically modified foods would celebrate a similar exclusion. Everyone else would pay a price. Because conventional crops often require more water and pesticides than GMOs do, the former are usually more expensive. Consequently, we would all have to pay a premium on non-GMO foods—and for a questionable return. Private research firm Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants estimated that Prop 37 would have raised an average California family’s yearly food bill by as much as $400. The measure would also have required farmers, manufacturers and retailers to keep a whole new set of detailed records and to prepare for lawsuits challenging the “naturalness” of their products.
Antagonism toward GMO foods also strengthens the stigma against a technology that has delivered enormous benefits to people in developing countries and promises far more. Recently published data from a seven-year study of Indian farmers show that those growing a genetically modified crop increased their yield per acre by 24 percent and boosted profits by 50 percent. These farmers were able to buy more food—and food of greater nutritional value—for their families.
To curb vitamin A deficiency—which blinds as many as 500,000 children worldwide every year and kills half of them—researchers have engineered Golden Rice, which produces beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. Approximately three quarters of a cup of Golden Rice provides the recommended daily amount of vitamin A; several tests have concluded that the product is safe. Yet Greenpeace and other anti-GMO organizations have used misinformation and hysteria to delay the introduction of Golden Rice to the Philippines, India and China.
More such products are in the works, but only with public support and funding will they make their way to people’s plates. An international team of researchers has engineered a variety of cassava—a staple food for 600 million people—with 30 times the usual amount of beta-carotene and four times as much iron, as well as higher levels of protein and zinc. Another group of scientists has created corn with 169-fold the typical amount of beta-carotene, six times as much vitamin C and double the folate.
At press time, GMO-label legislation is pending in at least 20 states. Such debates are about so much more than slapping ostensibly simple labels on our food to satisfy a segment of American consumers. Ultimately, we are deciding whether we will continue to develop an immensely beneficial technology or shun it based on unfounded fears.
On Nov. 6, the New Hampshire House Committee on Environment and Agriculture dealt a blow to an effort in New Hampshire to require the labeling of genetically modified foods or foods that contain GMOs.
To read more click here
Andrew Kimbrell makes many misstatements in his letter “Our GM Food Fears Aren’t Irrational” (Nov. 9): “The vast majority of GE crops are developed to resist and therefore promote pesticides, sharply increasing the amount of pesticides used in agriculture.” In fact, a significant fraction of GE crops have been specifically, and successfully, crafted to supplant the spraying of chemical pesticides. According to an analysis by PG Economics, the cultivation of pest-resistant genetically engineered crops reduced pesticide spraying by 474 million kilograms (9%) between 1996 and 2011.
To read more click here
But there is no reliable evidence that genetically modified foods now on the market pose any risk to consumers.
The Food and Drug Administration says it has no basis for concluding that foods developed by bioengineering techniques present different or greater safety concerns than foods developed by traditional plant breeding. Nevertheless, bills are pending in several states to require mandatory labeling of genetically modified ingredients (a referendum to compel such labeling was narrowly defeated in California last November). For now, there seems little reason to make labeling compulsory.
Consumers can already find products free of genetically engineered ingredients, with labels voluntarily placed by the manufacturers.