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Hawaii bill requires labeling of all GM foods

Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 14:02

Hawaiian Protest of GMO's

Hawaiian Protest | image via AP Photos

Hawaii’s House Committee on Agriculture passed a bill Monday requiring the labeling of all genetically modified (GM) produce shipped into the state. If passed by the rest of the state’s legislature, Hawaii’s bill would be the first in a slew of “citizen’s right to know” label laws being pushed by states throughout the country.

The largest concern with GM food items, according to the Just Label It campaign – a national institute composed of over 600 companies, organizations and individuals advocating the need for GM labels – is that genetically engineered (GE) crops have not been adequately tested for human consumption and as such pose a great health risk to consumers.

According to the USDA, between 88-94 percent of all corn and soybean crops are GM crops.

No similar bill has been filed in the 83rd Texas Legislature.

The environmental impact of GE crops has ongoing side effects, according to GM label advocates.

“Genetically engineered crops have been credited with an increase of 383 million pounds of herbicide use in the U.S. over the first 13 years of commercial use (1996- 2008),” according to the Just Label It campaign. “In August of 2011, the US Geological Survey reported that glyphosate (the active ingredient in the herbicide ‘Roundup’) is now a common component of the air and rain in the Midwest during the spring and summer.”

In November, California gained nationwide recognition for its initiative to establish the first across the board label law – one that would apply to all raw and processed GM foods. The bill failed by a marginal vote, due in large part to a corpulent agri-businesses campaign of over $40 million to stop the proposition, according to California-Right-to-Know advocates.

The Texas Department of Agriculture’s 2013-17 Strategic Plan doesn’t address GMs, nor does it advocate for GM agricultural products in Texas to be labeled.

Drew DeBerry, TDA’s deputy commissioner, has approached the issue of the organic food and the GM labeling movement with caution in his public statements.

“While it’s foolish to discredit small farms and the organic movement, it is equally unrealistic to think their methods and production outputs – however well intended – can wholly sustain the planet’s impending population explosion,” DeBerry said.

After the failure of California’s initiative, numerous states across the country, including Washington, New Mexico, Tennessee, Rhode Island, and of course, Hawaii, introduced their own bills calling for the labeling of GM foods.

Whether corporate agriculture will continue to fight label laws on a state by state basis remains to be seen, but thus far, no known large scale opposition to the Hawaii bill exists.

The Alliance for Better Foods, an advocate of biotechnology and GM products, said that labeling biotech foods differently may mislead consumers into thinking that biotech products have different health effects than organic food.


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