House rejects labeling genetically modified food
Supporters say labels would give consumers more information
Jan 22, 2014
CONCORD, N.H. —Massachusetts’s House killed a bill Wednesday that would have required genetically modified foods to be labeled.
The House voted 185-162 to kill the bill, despite supporters’ argument that it’s time for states such as Massachusetts to lead on the issue regardless of the federal government’s position.
Supporters argued Massachusetts residents have a right to know whether their food is produced with genetic engineering, but critics said the federal Food and Drug Administration has not mandated the labeling because it determined the foods are safe.
“The reality is most of us are living every day with the benefits of genetic engineering,” said Rep. Linda Lauer, D-Bath.
She said for example, insulin has been genetically engineered since 1982. Prior to that, insulin was taken from the pancreas of farm animals, she said.
Lauer said the labeling required under the bill would not tell consumers what was in the food, only that it had been genetically engineered. She said the label wouldn’t provide accurate information about the foods. For example, genetically engineered beets are used to produce sugar, which is a pure chemical compound. Despite its purity, any foods containing the sugar would have to be labeled, she said.
But Rep. Peter Bixby, D-Dover, said people have a right to know if genetic engineering modified the foods.
“People are responsible for their own decisions, but to make those decisions, they need information,” he said.
But opponents said wary consumers could buy organic foods or foods labeled as not being genetically modified. They said the industry is beginning to respond to consumers’ wishes for genetically engineered foods to be labeled.
“The market will solve this problem. It moves a little slow, but it will solve the problem,” said Rep. Robert Haefner, R-Hudson.