JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED BABY FOOD.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL:
With a prevalence of conflicting research and health concerns regarding genetically engineered ingredients and products, this bill will require all infant formula or baby food containing genetically engineered materials to be labeled in a clear manner such as, “produced with genetic engineering”.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Tara Cook-Littman, GMO FREE CT: Genetically engineered foods have not been proven safe by the FDA. GMO's were exempt from testing but did not meet the criteria required for that status. Connecticut would be joining thirty seven other states looking to pass unified labeling laws. Genetically Engineered labels are constitutional. GMO labeling does not violate the First Amendment right to merchants' commercial free speech rights. This argument does not hold up against the right to know what our families are eating. Note: Tara Cook-Littman submitted research discussed in her testimony as attachments.
Diana Reeves, Farmington CT: “My husband, my two daughters and I suffer from autoimmune disease and food allergies…My children have grown up eating GMOs without my knowledge or consent. I have been reading studies that link GMOs and the chemicals they are sprayed with to a very long and very disturbing list of health problems, including autoimmune disease.” There have been no independent studies to look at GMOs. Bt corn, used in baby formulas, is an EPA registered pesticide. Monsanto has been able to raise pesticide levels and not label their use of these pesticides by petitioning the FDA.
Note: Attached is the pesticide information for Bt.
Walter Grant, Mystic CT: Unfortunately, none of the promises of genetically engineered foods have happened. There was great promise of drought resistance, increased yields, and enhanced nutrition. “The leading manufacturers of Genetically Modified Foods have refused to submit their products for independent testing. Over 60 countries mandatory GMO labeling or outright bans.”
Sharon Schendel, Fairfield CT: “I believe we have a right to know what's in our food! Our generation should not be guinea pigs for Monsanto in what will ultimately be an experiment that went wrong. This is likely the tobacco, lead and DDT of our time.”
Patrick Kelley, Eastern CT Community Gardens Assn.: “The time is now to pass legislation on this very serious issue.” Connecticut should be a leader that will allow consumers to be better informed about genetically modified foods.
Matthew Went, Meriden CT: The promises from food manufacturers of increased yields, drought tolerance, and enhanced nutrition have not come true. There are human health consequences with GMOs. “In one study, scientists found that inert ingredients in the herbicide amplified the toxic effect on human cells – even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns. One specific inert ingredient, POEA, was more deadly to human embryonic, placental, and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself – a finding the researchers called 'astonishing'.”
Catherine Iaccarino, West Haven CT: Monsanto has released a number of press releases concerning labeling. In one article released in the UK it states, “Monsanto fully supports UK food manufacturers and retailers in their introduction of these labels. We believe you should be aware of all the facts before making a purchase.” Corporations should protect us and especially one in America. If Monsanto does believe that GMO food should be labeled, they should do so in the country they are located in.
Beth Beisel, GMO GREE CT: Other ingredients like corn syrup, gluten and trans-fat are on labels but not GMOs. Formula has corn and soy which are primarily altered with GMOs. Infants cannot filter these pesticides out of their immune system. “In Canada, BT toxin – used in GE corn, was found in the blood of pregnant women and in their unborn babies. The study was published last year in the Journal of Applied Toxicology. The FDA cannot be depended on to protect our children's health and our own.
Theresa Velendzas, Glastonbury CT: There is so much misinformation about GMOs. Theresa Velendzas had fertility problems until she stopped consuming so many GMOs. Labeling can be a positive first step in the many studies and research that conflict regarding the safety and healthiness of these products. GE foods have not been proven to be safe and can be found in our supermarkets everywhere. In over 60 other countries including Australia, Europe and China, citizens are given the freedom of GMO labeling to know what they are giving their children.
Michael Donagher, Farmington CT: “Eighty-five to about ninety-five percent of all corn, soy, cotton, rapeseed (plant canola oil comes from) and now sugar in this country are now genetically engineered. These crops are engineered in a lab to have a segment of gene imprecisely infected or shot into their DNA, the segment is an artificial combination of an antibiotic resistant gene, bacterial genes and a segment of DNA from a virus.” After studying the environment extensively, Mr. Donagher tries to avoid GMO crops and food. There are studies that link GMOs to health concerns including cancer, liver and kidney dysfunction and toxicity which was published in Seralini's Food and Chemical Toxicology. It is important to note that the FDA in 1992 approved Monsanto as Generally Recognized As Safe for these crops under Michael Taylor, a former lawyer for Monsanto who would return to the company after. There are a lot of unknowns with an extensive use of GMOs in our food products that should be monitored.
Martin Mador, Sierra Club: GMO engineered foods have been shown to cause health and environmental threats even though the manufacturers of GMO seeds have patented and not allowed for the release of studies on these engineered products. This bill will give the consumers the ability to choose. It will not hurt our agricultural practices or restrict the sale of GMO foods. The State must work towards this legislation as federal government has not been able to resolve this issue.
Marie-Therese Hernon, Shelton CT: All food products in the United State should be labeled for GMOs. Americans have the right to know what they are buying and putting in their bodies.
Gabrielle Riola: Children with complicated medical histories should have the information to make sure they are not consuming foods that they may have allergies to.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Tim Phelan, President, CT Retail Merchants Assn.: The specific food labeling of this product may place us at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the country. Connecticut would be the only state doing this and may come with a rise in cost to our businesses and suppliers may choose to not bother and sell their products elsewhere. Labels may raise questions and confusion for consumers.
Robert Rankin, International Formula Council: “Labeling of genetically-engineered ingredients is unnecessary, provides no public health benefit and likely will create confusion and alarm – the opposite of the intended effect of this legislation.” This labeling may confuse consumers from other states that travel to Connecticut. There are voluntary labeling guidelines established by the FDA for those manufacturers who do not use genetically engineered ingredients. The FDA has said that labeling of foods containing genetically-engineered ingredients is unnecessary because they are no different than ingredients not created through biotechnology.
Eric Brown, CT Business & Industry Assn.: This bill will hurt Connecticut businesses and the state's competitiveness. This could cause constitutional problems and will cause a market disadvantage for Connecticut. “What CBIA wishes to emphasize is that this is precisely the type of bill that makes businesses across the nation look at Connecticut and ask themselves, 'Why would I ever want to start or move a business to a place so hostile to businesses.'”
Paul Pescatello, President, CT United for Research Excellence: “Perhaps our most important job is to support growth of the cluster of biotechnology and biopharma companies that CURE and all of you in the General Assembly have worked so hard to build.” The FDA makes this bill unnecessary because it regulates this food and the “organic” labeling option makes it so no genetically engineered foods are in used in these products. This bill “undermines the foundation, the hospitable environment, for biotech we've worked so hard to build in Connecticut.”
Gregory Costa, Groceries Manufacturers Assn.: The GMA does support the intent of this bill to keep consumers safe. “…This legislation is deeply flawed as it suggests that food products derived from biotechnology are potentially unsafe for consumption even though there is overwhelming agreement among regulatory and scientific bodies around the world that these products are in fact safe.” GMA supports a rigorous science-based federal regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology products. This labeling would be misguided and unnecessary. “GMA agrees with the FDA and numerous scientific bodies and regulatory agencies including the World Health Organization, Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and American Medical Association that foods and beverages that contain genetically engineered ingredients are safe and that they are materially no different from products that do not contain genetically modified ingredients.” Consumers can choose products certified as organic if they wish not to eat genetically modified food products.
Stan Sorkin, President, CT Food Association: “CFA agrees with the FDA and numerous scientific bodies and regulatory agencies (World Health Organization, Food & Agricultural Organization of the UN, American Medical Association) that food and beverages that contain genetically engineered ingredients are safe and they are materially no different than products that do not contain genetically modified ingredients.” This labeling may be confusing to consumers and if labeling is done should be done so on a national basis with voluntary labeling of GMOs in food. This bill may not be constitutional, puts the burden on grocery retailers to regulate the label, and baby food labels are already small and it would have to be screened carefully to notice if it has genetically modified ingredients. This may cause higher costs for groceries and place another burden on our grocery industry.
Biotechnology Industry Organization, CT Food Assn. CT Retail Merchants Assn. CT United for Research Excellence, Grocery Manufacturers Assn. and International Formula Council: Studies have shown that bioengineered foods are just as safe as their food counterparts. These ingredients do not pose a health threat and would just cause confusion for consumers. Labeling does not improve or promote the public health as there is no health or safety difference between conventionally produced foods and organic foods. The testimony cites a number of sources including the FDA, American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics that cites no significant difference between organic foods and conventional produce. It may also be unconstitutional because it undermines commercial free speech and violates interstate commerce.
Dr. L. Val Giddings: As a former regulator, supervisor of risk assessments, and experience in preparing environmental assessment of transgenic crops, this bill is well intentioned but there are misunderstandings. The Bt protein “…is a pest control agent widely used by organic growers because of its superb safety record. This compound is well known, well understood, and has a spotless safety record.” Dr. Giddings states the following are facts, “Consumers already have access to abundant information about the foods they buy, whether or not they have been improved through biotechnology and the information and freedom to choose to avoid them if they wish…and HB 6527 and others like it would mislead consumers into believing foods from biotech improved seeds are more risky than other foods” among other claimed reasons. Note: Attached to his testimony was a policy memorandum from the Department of Agriculture on GMOS.
Reported by: Breana Vessichio, Assistant Clerk and Elizabeth S. Giannaros
Date: March 14, 2013