More than 600 million people could be fed each year if fungal diseases were controlled in the world’s five most important crops – rice, wheat, maize, soybeans and potatoes. Fungal infections destroy at least 125 million tons of these top crops each year, which provide the majority of calories consumed by people. Other crops like coffee and grapes can also be hugely impacted by fungi, with estimated crop losses globally of 15 and 20 percent, respectively. We need resistant varieties and crop protection products to keep our foods healthy.
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We have discussed CRISPR in terms of what it can do about agriculture, but to fully understand the impact of this amazing technology here a wonderful article about how CRISPR might be able to literally cure hearing loss.
This is an article from the MIT Technology Review.
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.
Saturday, January 30, 2016
Seabrook Rep. Max Abramson helped organize a contest to find Massachusetts’s dumbest law, and repeal it.
But he’s also trying to create a new dumb law.
Abramson is sponsoring legislation to require food manufacturers to label genetically engineered foods, or ingredients known as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
We’ve been alternating the genetics of our food for millennia through selective breeding.
There is no evidence that genetic engineering represents any threat to public health. The campaign against the practice is fueled by unscientific paranoia.
Consumers who care about such things can find out what’s in their food more easily than ever before, allowing them to make informed choices.
While almost all processed foods contain genetically engineered ingredients, companies can market to customers looking for alternatives. Putting a GMO-free label on their product would be far more helpful to consumers than forcing every food maker in the county to place a scary “Produced with Genetic Engineering” label on their packaging.
Imposing such stringent labeling requirements in a small state like ours will limit choices to Massachusetts shoppers. It would be a costly and unnecessary regulation for big food companies, and a burden not worth tackling for smaller competitors. Many would simply chose not to distribute their produce in Massachusetts.
Abramson’s move to trim back Massachusetts’s outdated laws is a good idea. His effort to impose new labeling requirements based on Luddite fears is not.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Massachusetts Grocers urge legislators to stop food labeling bill Massachusetts, January 14, 2014
The Massachusetts Grocers Association today urged legislators to “say no” to forced labeling of Genetically Engineered (GE/GMO) foods—legislation that may come to a vote this week. The grocers said labeling would cause unnecessary harm to the economy by adding costs for Massachusetts grocers, consumers, and food producers such as breweries, wineries and retail merchants.
The grocers added that required labeling will also impact the state budget as the costs to create and maintain a state-run labeling program could run as high as nearly half a million dollars per year. John Dumais, President and CEO of the NH Grocers Association said, “This legislation mandating GE labels on food products just for Massachusetts is unnecessary, as consumers already have a choice of what they buy.
They can already purchase “Certified Organic” or “Non-GMO” foods if they prefer.” He added that the labeling bill, HB 660, creates confusion where none is needed, is contrary to scientific facts, and will add costs for Massachusetts residents at the grocery store. Leading regulatory and health associations including the Food and Drug Administration, American Medical Association, National Academies of Science, World Health Organization, and United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization have all signed off on the safety of genetically engineered food. “Ninety-three percent of Massachusetts’s food is imported,” Dumais continued.
“Forcing companies to produce special labels just for Massachusetts isn’t practical–they will either stop selling to us or substantially increase their prices. Our choices at the grocery store would be reduced and labels would mislead consumers to believe they should be concerned about a product’s safety when that’s simply not true.
On top of all that, it would cost consumers hundreds of dollars more per year for food,” he said.
Just when we thought that farmers wouldn’t plant any more genetically modified crops the percentage (and most likely the acreage as well) of GM corn increased in 2013, to 90% of all corn planted. Soybeans have been stuck at 93% for several years now. Consider these percentages as you mull over the impact of the labeling law being debated in several New England states. From the above percentages, it certainly seems that a high percentage of foods containing corn or soybean products (including corn oil and soybean oil) must be made from GM crops. Changing this will be like stopping a runaway train. One of the claims made against GM crops is that they are responsible for all sorts of diseases including obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. And it’s true that the incidence of these diseases or conditions has increased in the past decade or two. However, Colleen Scherer, managing editor of “Ag Professional” magazine, notes that something else that has increased tremendously in the same time period: The consumption of organic food! Does eating organic food cause these diseases? Of course not; Coincidence does not equal proof. But there is as much evidence supporting organic foods as the reason for increased disease incidence as there is for GM crops: None at all.
Miner Institute Report
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.
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On Nov. 6, the Massachusetts House Committee on Environment and Agriculture dealt a blow to an effort in Massachusetts to require the labeling of genetically modified foods or foods that contain GMOs.
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An impressive grassroots campaign to require labeling food that is genetically engineered came up short before a House committee Thursday.
The measure now goes to the full House of Representatives early on in the 2014 session, with the House Environmental and Agriculture Committee recommending 12-8 that it be killed.
Supporters have been hoping to make Massachusetts a beach head on which to build regional endorsement for this mandate.
A House committee voted 12 to 8 to recommended against passing a bill that would require retailers to label foods containing genetically modified crops, or GMOs. The vote means the chances are slim of getting the bill through a divided legislature.