The following testimony was presented to the Senate Agriculture Committee in support of H.112, an bill that would require labels on GMO foods sold in Vermont.
To: Senate Committee on Agriculture
From: Falko Schilling, Esq., Consumer Protection Advocate, VPIRG
Date: January 9th, 2014
Re: Labeling of genetically engineered food products
For the record, my name is Falko Schilling and I am the Consumer Protection Advocate at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). VPIRG is the state’s largest nonprofit consumer and environmental advocacy organization with more than 30,000 members and supporters across Vermont. VPIRG is one of the founding members of the VT Right to Know GMOs coalition which has grown to represent over approximately 200 farms, food producers, Co-oops and other organizations. I am here to testify in support of H.112 which would require labels on genetically engineered (GE) foods sold in Vermont.
In 2012 our coalition worked with members of the House of Representatives to craft the foundation of the bill that you see in front of you today. From day 1 our goal was to create a bill that informed Vermonters about what was in their food, and that was legally defensible. We believe that the bill in front of you accomplishes these purposes.
Vermonters currently don’t have the ability to know if food products have been produced using genetic engineering unless they are specially certified. This bill prevents consumer deception and gives Vermonters essential information to help them make informed choices about avoiding the health risks and environmental impacts associated with GE foods. We support H.112 for the following reasons.
Vermonters and the majority of Americans want GE foods to be labeled.
This summer VPIRG collected over 30,000 postcards from Vermonters in every corner of the sate asking their Senators to pass a GMO labeling bill this session. The broad public support for this legislation is not surprising. Poll after poll has found that over 90% of Americans support GE labeling. [i] These Vermonters are simply asking for the same information that is available to citizens of the European Union, Russia, China and 64 countries around the world.
Labeling will give consumers greater ability to make informed food choices.
This bill will create common sense labeling requirements that will allow Vermonters to make informed decisions about what they eat and feed their families. Vermonters will also benefit from the prohibition of misleading and deceptive advertising that represents GE foods as “natural”.
GE foods are not adequately tested by the FDA.
The FDA does not test GE foods for their safety before allowing them to be sold for human consumption. The FDA relies on tests conducted by the producers of these GE products to verify the safety of the GE foods.[ii]
A growing body of evidence indicates there is possible health risks associated with eating GE foods.
A recent study done by Canadian researchers found that 93% of pregnant mothers and 80% of their fetal cord samples tested positive for Cry 1Ab toxin.[iii] The study concluded that, “given the potential toxicity of these environmental pollutants and the fragility of the fetus, more studies are needed.”[iv]
GE corn varieties have been linked to organ failure in animals.[v] These effects were mostly seen in the kidney and liver, while other effects were seen in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and hematopoietic system.[vi]
Labeling will not increase the cost of food for Vermonters.
Reports prepared by Oregon State University and Emory University School of Law found costs associated with GE labeling to be negligible, less than $2.00 per person per year.[vii]
VPIRG and the VT Right to Know GMOs Coalition do not support a contingent effective date for H.112.
The state legislatures in Connecticut and Maine recently passed GE labeling legislation that would only become effective when similar legislation was passed other states. We do not support any modification to the effective date of H.112 that would make the bill’s implementation dependent on the actions of other states. A contingent effective date would not accomplish the purpose of the bill.
[i] Center for Food Safety. Polls on GMO Labeling http://gefoodlabels.org/gmo-labeling/polls-on-gmo-labeling/
[ii] US Food and Drug Administration. Statement of policy: Foods derived from new plant varieties. FDA Federal Register. 29 May 1992; 57(104): 229.
[iii] Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reprod Toxicol. 2011 May;31(4):528-33. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2011.02.004. Epub 2011 Feb 18. Aris A, Leblanc S. Available at /www.uclm.es/Actividades/repositorio/pdf/doc_3721_4666.pdf
[v] A comparison of the effects of three GM corn varieties on mammalian health. Int J Biol Sci. 2009 Dec 10;5(7):706-26.de Vendômois JS, Roullier F, Cellier D, Séralini GE. Available at http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.pdf
[vii] Studies found at http://www.anh-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/GE-Food-Act-Costs-Assessment.pdf, http://arec.oregonstate.edu/jaeger/personal/em8817.pdf