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Nation/World

January 23, 2014

States weighing labels on genetically altered food

(Continued)

Voters in California and Washington rejected ballot proposals in the past two years that would have required GMO labeling. And in New Hampshire, lawmakers defeated a GMO labeling bill Wednesday. Among other arguments, opponents said any labeling requirements would likely face a legal challenge.

“If you believe genetic modification produces food that has a health risk, then you’re saying the FDA should be the one to label it,” said New Hampshire state Rep. Linda Lauer, a Democrat and a retired chemist. “And if there’s no health risk, then why are you requiring a label?”

So Connecticut and Maine continue to wait on other states to enact laws before their own will take effect. Lawmakers in those two states added that provision to prevent a patchwork of state labeling rules that might be onerous to food producers.

The issue may be decided in Washington, where both sides are pushing for a federal standard on how GMO foods are labeled. The Food and Drug Administration, which says all genetically engineered foods must meet the same requirements as traditional foods, now allows producers to voluntarily label their items as genetically engineered or not.

Last week, a coalition of organic food producers, GMO critics and supporters in Congress wrote to President Barack Obama urging the FDA.

Meanwhile, last month the Grocery Manufacturers Association wrote to the FDA asking whether foods “derived from biotechnology” could be allowed to be labeled “natural.”

The association represents Monsanto Company, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and hundreds of other companies. It notes that GMOs have been on the market for two decades, and include soy, corn, sugar and other items commonly used in a variety of foods.

Some businesses aren’t waiting for government action. Whole Foods announced last year that it plans to label GMO products in all its U.S. and Canadian stores within five years. And General Mills recently announced it would no longer use GMOs in its original Cheerios recipe.

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