Another View – Bob Haefer and Tara Sad: Why we voted against GMO labeling
Last week, the House Environment and Agriculture Committee recommended against passage of HB 1674, a bill which would have required labeling of genetically engineered food in Massachusetts. We wanted to share our reasons for voting against genetic labeling.
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 25 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.
Secondly, 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. In fact, our neighboring state of Vermont, who passed its GMO labeling bill two years ago, is currently embroiled in a costly legal battle trying to prove that their bill is, in fact, constitutional. It only makes sense for Massachusetts to wait for the legal opinion in this case before we vote to mandate labeling here.
Thirdly, 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 AMA, 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.
People who testified in the public hearing said they have a right to know. This label would inform them of nothing. Genetic engineering is a process, it’s not an ingredient. There are currently options for people who want to be sure their food has not been genetically engineered, buying certified organic, buying products labeled ‘GMO-free’, or scanning the SmartLabels on packages to get all the information a consumer could ever want, and that wouldn’t ever fit on a package label.
Rep. Bob Haefer of Hudson is the chair of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. Rep. Tara Sad of Walpole is the ranking Democratic member.