Environment Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5117

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING GENETICALLY-ENGINEERED FOODS.

Vote Date:

3/21/2012

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

2/22/2012

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Rep. Richard Roy

Environment Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

There are concerns about the health and environmental effects of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) grown for food. Under current FDA, EPA, and USDA rules, foods with Genetically Engineered ingredients do not have to be labeled as such. This bill would require all products sold in CT with GMO ingredients to be labeled, establish best practices for growing GMO crops, require disclosure when these crops are grown, and direct the Commissioner of Consumer Protection to establish a program rewarding voluntarily labeled products with favorable placement. The bill would exempt meat and other product from non-GE animals fed GMO foods, and those foods made using GMO ingredients that are removed during production.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Steven K Reviczky, Commissioner, Department of Agriculture, opposes HB 5117 because “Enacting labeling requirements on CT producers when no other states require them will place Connecticut farmers at a competitive disadvantage” and believes a level playing field is only possible under a national policy. “Uncertainty about whether a crop might be contaminated through open field pollination may require all farmers to label CT crops with a “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” label, thereby making the designation near meaningless.” “Genetically engineered crops are researched and designed with a whole host of benefits in mind: drought resistance, reducing the need for pesticides, increasing production and driving down costs, reducing soil erosion, and helping to literally feed the world.”

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Robert Burns, Board of Directors, Ledge Light Health District (LLHD), supports the bill. “Whereas LLHD places the highest value on promoting informed, educated and knowledgeable consumers” all “Genetically Modified Food” should be so labeled.

They attach a paper from the Stephen Drucker, Exec. Director of Alliance for Bio-integrity, “Why the FDA's policy on genetically engineered foods is irresponsible and illegal.”

Eva Kornreich, Director, Kinderdance of Fairfield County, supports the bill. As the mother of a young child she is concerned that “80% of food on grocery store shelves in the U.S. contains GMO ingredients. That includes infant formula.” There is growing evidence that such food poses health risks, and it is banned or strictly labeled in most countries. Labeling would allow US consumers to “vote with their wallets.”

Karyn Burns supports the bill. “People have the right to know what they are putting into their bodies and withholding this information is WRONG.”

Josephine Sonsini supports the bill. She believes, regarding GMOs “evidence is clear they can only do harm- to people, animals, plants” and that the chemical giants must be stopped.

Joseph R. Sopata supports the bill. “I believe there have not been enough tests and there are real dangers” with GMOs, and wants labels so as to know what foods not to buy.

John Turenne supports the bill. “Genetically engineered foods are required to be labeled in the 15 EU nations, Russia, Japan, China, Australia, NZ and many other countries.” Americans pride themselves on making informed choices, under current FDA rules we lack that regarding GE ingredients, and we should also have that right.

Janice Kowal supports the bill. “Companies that manufacture and sell GMO/GE foods do not publish their testing, and the FDA” doesn't and can't afford to. Also, grain importing nations don't want GMO food, collapsing the US export market. Labeling thus makes economic sense.

Janet Heller, Secretary, CTNOFA, strongly supports HB5117. Clear labels for all GMO food are needed because while “Some will argue that labeling foods that contain GMOs is unnecessary, because people can choose food labeled “Certified Organic” or GMO free”, many lack the money or time to find them, let alone research the forthcoming GMO crops. Fortunately, most “fresh CT grown food for human consumption is GMO-free. We want it to stay that way”, as do farmers. Information is growing regarding the risks of BT toxins from GMO crops to human cells, and of roundup residue in foods. “Europe and other countries are watching us, while they stay mostly GMO free. We are the guinea pigs.” Resolution Attached.

Janak Desai supports the bill. “I have the right to know about the food I eat.” In what ABC news called rare near-unanimity, their recent poll “found that 93 percent of the American public wants the federal government to require mandatory labeling of GE foods.”

Jan Sopota supports the bill. We urgently need “to raise awareness for the insidious practice of genetic modifications of food and especially for those selling them without labeling them as such.”, “because there is no scientific proof of its effect on humans.”

Shamu Fenyvesi Sadeh, Adamah Farm Director, Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, supports the bill. As a farmer, parent and educator, and “as a person who has an anaphylactic reaction to bean products I understand how the matter of labeling is literally a matter of life or death”. The health risks of GMOs are significant. As an organic farmer he works hard to help his neighbors and to achieve national organic certification. GM farming undoes these investments and lack of labeling undermines consumer trust.

Carol Powers, Housatonic Valley Association, supports the bill. “I believe that, especially for the transfer of genes across species, the GMO movement is occurring too fast for Nature to adjust. We may have severe unintended consequences, especially for wildlife and habitat”.

Holly Franquet supports the bill. “Consumers have the right know what is in their food so that they can avoid foods they consider unsafe.”

Henry Lord supports the bill and opposes GMO produce being grown “in a secretive manner. Any GMO's that are produced in CT should be identified by where they are being grown.”, since they can contaminate nearby GMO-free, even organic farms. Supermarket food should be labeled so we can avoid it, regardless of harm to Monsanto's bottom line.

Rodger Phillips, Harford Food System, supports the bill. They have been “ensuring healthy food access for Hartford's residents since 1978.” Their organic urban farming program, “Grow Hartford”, ensures that more of their community receives healthy foods, and they support labeling as a step toward a level playing field, so lower income and urban consumers can also make informed choices. Aside from health risks, there are many environmental dangers to GMOs, such as harm to non-targeted insects by toxins, reduced effectiveness of pesticides, and transfer of herbicide resistant genes from engineered crops to weeds.

Hannah Tripp, a UConn honors student from a rural CT town, supports the bill. “Requiring food companies to label products that contain GMOs is no different than requiring companies to list ingredients and nutrition facts. Consumers simply have a right to know.”

Monique Bosch, Green Village Initiative, supports CT leading on the labeling of all GMOs.

Goldii Lock supports the bill. Big business has no right to prevent consumers from knowing what's in their food, how it was created and where it comes from.

Gary Camillo supports the bill. As a holistic health counselor, he teaches clients to make choices and take responsibility for their health and what they eat, partly by reading labels. No such labeling exists for GMOs, denying consumers the ability to make informed decisions. “I ask you to support this right for the citizens of Ct by becoming the first state to pass this bill.”

Francis Murphy favors 5117. “People have a right to know what is in the food they purchase.”

Analiese Paik, Fairfield Green Food Guide supports the bill. “The FDA determined 20 years ago that GM foods need not be labeled because they were not “materially” from their conventional counterparts.”, but paradoxically, the seeds are unique enough to be patentable.

The US is the world's largest GMO producer, with 43% market share, and exported GMOs are already being segregated and labeled. Herbicide tolerant crops, regulated by the USDA, have actually increased the use of herbicides and thus may be creating resistant “superweeds”. Crops containg Bt are registered as pesticides with the EPA, and despite previous claims that it wouldn't survive digestion, Bt has been found in the cells of pregnant women. Polling indicates that consumers overwhelmingly favor the right to avoid supporting dangerous technology, and labeling would allow that. Ms. Paik also submitted 6 supporting documents.

Ethel Fried supports the bill. She is troubled by early tests showing that toxins in GMO corn can affect human cells, and the US is rare amongst industrialized nations in lack of labeling.

Emily Glodek supports HB 5117, as “not enough studies have been done to show that GE foods are not detrimental to the health of” humans and beneficial organisms.

Elysa Bryant supports the bill. In the case of an accident, “You wouldn't let a known contaminant of food that causes genetic mutation go unchecked.” However, despite the lack of studies proving safety, since GMOs were deliberately created we somehow allow them to be used without even requiring disclosure to ensure consumers can make informed choices.

Eleanor Etter supports “complete and clear labeling which would disclose whenever genetic engineering is involved in any food or agricultural products”, and would favor an outright ban.

Patrick Kelley, President, Eastern Connecticut Community Gardens Association, favors immediate passage of HB 5117 “to ensure that clear choices can be made by consumers.”

David B. Fairman, Director, Eastern CT Community Gardens Assoc., supports the bill “to ensure integrity in the food acquisition process so that consumers can make the best choices”, helping ECCGA and other farmers/marketers improve health and food security in the region.

Dianne Ingle Farley supports GMO labeling, stating that a February 2012 study “in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Toxicology revealed that GM corn containing the genes for Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is toxic to humans”, as is roundup. Most US corn is grown with both.

David W. Schneider supports this bill. “Our daughter, a biochemistry professor, has had experience testing for GE corn and can attest to the need for labeling.”

David Harlow strongly supports this bill. “All consumers have the right to know what ingredients are in their food—particularly ingredients that can be dangerous to their health.”

Elizabeth Fleming, CT NOFA, strongly supports HB 5117 as a right to know issue.

Kelly Rago, Graduate Intern, Ct Public Health Assoc., supports the bill. GM foods can introduce new allergens when modified to include a non-naturally occurring protein, and antibiotic resistance when those genes transfer to bacteria. BT can damage red blood cells in vitro, and other GM associated pesticides, also being found in the blood of women and fetuses, have been linked with reproductive disorders, congenital abnormalities and birth complications. Multiple-herbicide resistant weeds lead to the need for stronger chemicals such as Parquet, “2, 4-d and Dicamba, linked to Parkinson's, cancer and reproductive issues, respectively.

Some GM plants not intended for human consumption and containing allergens or heavy metals could nevertheless enter the food stream, as happened with StarLink corn in 2000. Despite this, the FDA's “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) label means GM producers don't need premarket approval and are merely encouraged to consult with the FDA. “A recent study in Food Policy shows that the safety studies on GM foods with favorable outcomes have almost exclusively been funded by the industry itself. More research, without professional conflicts of interest” is needed. There are ongoing federal and state efforts on labeling laws.

Randal Agrella, Comstock, Ferre and Co seed house, supports the bill. “GMO crops have proliferated, driven by aggressive marketing strategies by patent-holders” who shrewdly resist labeling despite mounting evidence and because of growing opinion that GMOs aren't safe.

Colin Bennet, a father, supports labeling, a powerful step to ensure the safety of children.

Cheryl Arend, mother of six, supports labeling to allow consumer choice regarding GMOs, as exists with products such as raw milk. Long studies haven't been done on this unnatural food.

Cathie Iaccarino supports HB 5117. When a product such as skim milk is modified it is labeled to allow consumer choice, and logically GMOs should be as well. “I understand you are faced with a legal and financial quagmire, especially as corporations have been politically modified to be labeled as people. But, bottom line, what has not been changed is that corporations provide a service or product, in this case food, that we, the original species of people, purchase, and we have the right to know and to choose what we are paying for.

Catherine April supports 5117, expanding the right to know we now have for calories to GMOs.

Brian Reardon supports the right to know. If German owned Aldi's and Dutch owned Stop and Shop can stock GMOs in their respective home countries, why can they do so in the US?

Beth Beisel, a registered dietician, supports the bill. GMOs are banned in many nations, we're merely asking for disclosure. Innocuous ingredients such as citric acid, maltodextrin, baking soda and margarine are actually made from GMO corn, and beet sugar can now also be GMO.

Pat Bigelow, Berlin's Community Garden, supports the bill. He has studied nutritional Science and is highly allergic to cashew nuts, thus is particularly interested. 90% of soy, corn, cotton and canola are GE, and soy and corn are in most processed foods. Ge is inexact, “it is unknown where the introduced gene will land after it's been inserted, how it will affect the DNA, or what kind of protein will be made.” In the 1990s Pioneer HiBred added a brazil nut gene to improve soybeans, which final tests showed would have triggered major allergy attacks in those allergic to brazil nuts despite strong early indications otherwise, thus a disaster was narrowly averted. “I don't want to be toe-tagged someday because I happened to eat an unlabelled “something” that had a gene from a cashew nut GE-ed into it.”

Anthony Knoll, a high school student, supports 5117, as GM foods pose a potential risk.

Anne Stone “I have the basic right to know what the food is that I put in my body!”

Annelise McCay supports the bill. “With increased rates of cancers, allergies in children and various health problems in our world, we should have the right to make informed decisions”.

Anne Gallagher supports labeling GE foods. “Even though I am not a proponent of GMO I would encourage and demand that the best GMO farming practices are adhered to.”

Amy LaBoissiere supports HB 5117. “We have a right to know what we are purchasing.”

Robert Burns, Aiki Farms, supports the bill. Unlike other additives, the FDA does not test GMOs for toxicity. If GMO seeds are the same as natural ones, why are they patented? Spoken testimony cited extensive “revolving doors” between FDA and Monsanto as suspect.

Jana Berger, Adamah Farm Field Manager, supports HB 5117. “While GMO technology should continue to be researched, consumers should be prioritized rather than the producers.”

Jon Denn, Editor, www.agreater.us, Cites near-unanimous public support for labeling.

Virginia Schneider supports HB 5117. She states Europe and Maine don't allow GM seeds.

Pauline Lord, White Gate Farm, an organic farmer, endorses 5117.

Unitarian Universalist Society: East's Sustainable Living Committee, supports the bill.

Lisa Pepe, Turning Point Wellness Center LLC, supports the bill, and would endorse an outright ban on GMOs. Her acquaintances and other Americans support truth in labeling.

Teresa Kochowicz supports the bill. Quoting GMO researcher Dr. Bereano: “Corporations promoting these things claim that they have done research but you can't get any imformation on it because it's all proprietary.” She cites numerous studies showing ill effects, especially with reproductive health, in animals consuming GMOs and roundup-exposed plants.

Tara Cook-Littman, a mother, Holistic Health Counselor and former prosecutor, supports labeling of GMOs but does not ask for a ban. She and her son have different allergies, and reading labels to avoid known allergens is literally a lifesaver. Avoiding GMOs is more complicated because they are in 80% of processed food, in most corn, soybeans, canola and sugar, and “hide in our food with over 100 aliases including lecithin, glucose, corn syrup, caramel color, starch, xanthum gum, maltodextrin, tofu, vitamin E, gluten, protein and so on”.

Susan Masino, Assoc. Neuroscience Professor, Trinity College, supports HB 5117. She researches the effects of diet on brain change, and finds an utter lack in brain function animal studies of GMOs. She feels that self-policing, secrecy and a focus on short-term, major organ testing allows the industry to use “negative studies” to dubiously claim safety. Given the huge rise in autism, ADD, developmental disorders and mental illness in children, and growing evidence that diet plays a role, labeling is crucial to sort out the various contributing factors.

Susan Lori Rosenstein supports labels as a consumer right, even if risk is yet to be proven.

Susan Killheffer supports labeling, citing laws in such unexpected countries as China, and feels that the chemical lobby's success is disproportionate in the U.S.

Sue Stern supports labels, as forcing uninformed purchasing is not American. “If companies are worried that consumer will not purchase their product” they should prove safety.

Shannon Gallagher favors 5117. “I support having the “Right to Know” what is in our foods.”

Ryan McMahon, Glastonbury Community Farm Board Member, supports 5117. Even some Organic food may be GMO contaminated unless it has been through a verification process, such as the nonprofit “Non-GMO Project”, www.nongmoproject.org .

RJ Marchetti, a parent and home gardener, supports HB 5117 as allowing informed decisions is “a benefit to the public as well as all the local farmers and food manufacturers.”

Marina Marchese, President, Red Bee Honey, supports HB 5117. In Europe even “the pollen found in honey is considered an agricultural ingredient requiring GMO labeling.” As bees gather nectar in a four mile radius, traces of GMO from nearby crops “may contaminate the honey, resulting in a product anathema to what consumers want.” In Europe a beekeeper could thus claim damages against a farmer for pecuniary losses.

Pauline Lord supports labels. “We should not tolerate companies hiding ingredients” in food.

Pam Sloane supports 5117. “We are losing the biology of the soil and rendering it useless.”

Bill Duesing, Executive Director, Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. of CT (CT NOFA), supports HB 5117, especially Section 3 to provide best practices for transgenic farmers, and 5 to list GE agricultural commodities. In CT GMO is almost exclusively feed corn, but sweet corn and crookneck squash is expected. In 100,000 years of human history we have consumed artificial ingredients, which are labeled, for only 60 years and GMOs for only 15, and should label them especially. GMOs have been marketed on false claims of efficacy and safety. In spoken testimony he clarifies that products from GMO fed animals are excluded from the law, though ideally they should also be included it would be difficult to enforce.

Steve Munno, New CT Farmer Alliance, supports 5117, which would satisfy the growing demand for informed consumer choices and enable farmers to meet those needs. Current GE crops such as corn, alfalfa, yellow squash, zucchini, beets and chard could impact NCTFA farmers. “The integrity of a farm, and their commitment to providing non-GMO crops and products to consumers, is threatened when the potential for cross-pollination exists and neighboring farms are permitted to use GMO in an undisclosed fashion.”

Moira Eck: “I am totally in favor of having GE foods labeled, we should know” what we eat.

Meghan Magner supports 5117. “Industrial agriculture is largely not held accountable for its offenses on the environment.” Many consumers don't demand organics because they are under-informed, labeling would allow more people to vote with their dollars, as she does.

Marie Kearns supports 5117. “We are able to read a food label and determine the amounts of sugars, fats, protein” etc, and knowing whether that food is GMO is equally important.

Margaret Wheeler, a high school teacher, supports 5117. “It would be difficult to trace which foods or crops caused allergies, illness or disrupted the food chain without careful regulations.”

Marcie Miner supports labeling. Roundup-ready crops have hurt small farmers due to their battle with Monsanto, and now 2-4D and other pesticides are being added to the lineup.

Senator Edith Prague, 19th District, spoke in favor of the bill as a consumer rights and health care issue, and thanked Bob Burns for his advocacy.

Sallie Herson spoke in support of the bill. As a former health educator and someone who grows and donates organic food, she has concerns about the safety of GMOs, which are radically engineered and virtually untested.. She cites Jeffery Smith, a renowned authority.

Glenn Colelo spoke in favor of the bill, citing “genetic Roulette” and “Seeds of Deception” by Jeffery Smith, who spoke at Glen's café.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Brian O'Connor, State Government Relations Manager, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), opposes the bill as a solution in search of a problem. GMOs already go through a lengthy federal approval process by a “coordinator framework” consisting of the FDA, USDA and EPA. “U.S. laws limit labeling requirements for food to situations where there is a scientifically valid and constitutionally reasonable rationale”, 5117 would falsely imply differences where none exist and divert attention from important safety and nutritional information. “The majority of Americans support the current FDA labeling policy.”

Greg Costa, State Affairs Director, Grocery Manufacturers Assoc., opposes 5117. Mandatory labeling “is redundant to federal law and presupposes an issue with food safety”, undermining confidence in safe products and discouraging investment in efficient production of nutritious foods. In INTERNATIONAL DAIRY FOODS ASSN. V AMESTOY, F.3d 67 (1996), regarding dairy products created using rbST, the court found no case where “consumer interest alone was sufficient to justify requiring a product's manufacturers to publish the functional equivalent of a warning about a production method that has no discernable impact on a final product.”, and consumers can choose products that are voluntarily labeled.

Henry Talmadge, Exec. Director, CT Farm Bureau Assoc., opposes the bill. “The FDA has studied this issue in depth and has determined that labeling for GE foods is not scientifically or legally warranted.” “CT lacks the authority, expertise, infrastructure, and enforcement resources necessary for mandatory food labeling.” This mandate would add costs for labeling, inventorying, and distribution to CT produced food, and burden those that sell to other states, damaging an industry responsible for $3.5 billion in activity and over 20,000 jobs.

Don Tuller, President, Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, opposes the bill. The Bureau “supports keeping the responsibility for labeling of food products at the Federal Level, and based on scientific findings related to health.” A separate state standard would create a logistical, bureaucratic nightmare while unfairly favoring organic farmers, confusing consumers while increasing their costs. The voluntary “Certified Organic” program is adequate.

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Paul Pescatello, President, Ct United for Research for Research Excellence (Cure), opposes the bill. “It undermines the foundation, the hospitable environment, for biotech we've worked so heard to build in CT.” Biotech allows foods which are nutritionally identical while producing “more food using less land and fewer pesticides with a much lower carbon footprint.”

Stan Sorkin, President, CT Food Assoc., opposes the bill, which “undermines commercial free speech, most likely violates interstate commerce and is unconstitutional.” (IDFA v. Amestoy). “Costs to farmers could include the additional cost of identifying GMO products which the retailers would require, record keeping, and potential legal costs”, retailers additionally would have to identify fresh products and label manufactured goods that producers and importers don't, just as they have had to absorb paid sick leave, minimum wage increases and federal “country of origin” and nutritional label laws. Costs to the state to administer, enforce and defend this law could also be significant.

International Formula Council opposes the bill as unnecessary and confusing. “In a1992 FDA Policy statement the agency stated “FDA has no basis for concluding bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concerns than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.”” Health organizations such as WHO, Nat'l Academy of Sciences, AMA, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also endorsed the safety of biotech enhanced crops.

Rebecca Clark, Clark Farms NC., & Griffin Farmstead LLC., opposes the GMO bill and believes organic growers are pushing this bill and “should not turn their passion into profit by hurting those of us who feel that the food supply in this world must adapt to the ever changing climate, cost of production and demand.” Organic farming can't singlehandedly feed the world.

Jerry Grabarek opposes the bill if it would require milk to be labeled as GMO when cows are fed GMO grain. Most US soybeans are GMO and separating feed would be a nightmare for grain companies, which might have to switch to unaffordable organics. “Dairy farmers went through this with Bovine Growth

Hormone. Most of us signed a pledge not to use Monsanto's product” and received a premium payment due to consumer demand, but it was voluntary.

Tim Phelan, President, CT Retail Merchants Assoc., spoke in opposition to HB 5117. As with BPA, “placing CT out front on this issue without any support from the federal government” could have a disruptive chilling effect, especially in a downturn. Section 4 is additionally problematic and intrusive, as it directs the Commissioner of Consumer Protection to develop a plan potentially forcing retailers to give preferential placement to voluntarily labeled products.

Reported by: Zalman Nakhimovsky

Date: 4/4/12