Reps. Tara Sad and Bob Haefner: Why labeling GMO foods makes no sense
We are members of the Environment & Agriculture Committee that studied House Bill 660, the bill to require the labeling of genetically modified foods, this past year. After 19 meetings during which we investigated every aspect of the bill in exhaustive detail, both of us voted against the mandatory labeling of foods made with genetic engineering. We’d like to share with you the reasons why.
First, there has been no credible scientific study that proves that there is any material difference between GMO and non-GMO foods. No nutritional difference. No health safety difference. In fact, we have all been eating foods made with genetic engineering for more than 20 years. To that end, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulations state that requiring the labeling of foods that are indistinguishable from foods produced through traditional methods would mislead consumers by falsely implying differences where none exist.
Second, many legal experts tell us that this labeling bill is unconstitutional. Requiring food companies to label their products when there is no health or safety reason to do so fails the state interest test, undermines commercial free speech and violates interstate commerce. The court challenges that would likely follow passage of a GMO labeling bill would prove a backbreaking financial burden to our inadequate state general fund. When we were sworn in as state representatives, we took an oath to uphold the Constitution. We would be breaking that oath were we to vote for this unconstitutional bill.
Third, the bill is unenforceable. Our over-extended Health and Human Services Department, which will be charged with the administration and enforcement of this bill, has no experience in food labeling and estimates the costs to enact the bill will be anywhere from $125,000 to $550,000 per year. Once again, who is going to pay for this?
And finally, product labeling is a federal — not a state — responsibility. The FDA determines what information needs to be present on our food labels, not to satisfy consumer curiosity, but for our health and safety. They, along with the American Medical Association, the National Academies of Science, the World Health Organization and other trusted scientific organizations have all come out in support of foods made with genetic engineering, stating that foods made with this process are as healthy and nutritious as their conventional counterparts
Over the past year, voters in California and Washington have defeated GMO labeling bills. Let your representatives know that you think Massachusetts should do the same.
Rep. Tara Sad, D-Walpole, is chairman of the House Environment & Agriculture Committee. Rep. Bob Haefner, R-Hudson, is ranking minority member of the committee.