Minnesota lawmakers consider GMO label
By ANDREA PARROTT, Session Daily
ST. PAUL — A “produced with genetic engineering” label could one day make its appearance in Minnesota stores.
Rep. Karen Clark, D-Minneapolis, is sponsoring a bill to regulate disclosure of genetically engineered food and seed. The House commerce committee hosted an informational hearing on the bill Thursday. There is no Senate companion, and the House committee took no vote.
“This is a bill about the basic right of consumers to know what’s in their food — whether or not their food contains genetically modified compounds,” Clark said. “I want Minnesota to take its place among the other three, and now four, states that do require labeling of genetically modified foods.”
According to the bill, genetically modified foods for sale would be required to have a label conspicuously placed on the packaging or shelf (for unpackaged foods) that says “produced with genetic engineering.”
Genetically modified seed would have such labeling on the seed container, receipt or other form of product identification.
Minnesota should label genetically engineered food, said Jim Riddle, co-owner of Blue Fruit Farm, because “GMOs are novel patented organisms that have never before been part of nature or part of the human diet.”
It is difficult to determine which non-organic foods are genetically engineered, said Liz McMann, consumer affairs manager at Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op. As a result, she said the co-op has adopted a more restrictive policy for certain products that requires those products to be certified organic or non-GMO. Such certification can be expensive for producers, McMann said.
The bill also consists of enforcement provisions and a section describing some research into the negative effects of genetically engineered food such as herbicide resistance in weeds and an increase in the use of insecticides.
Perry Aasness, executive director of the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, said science has shown genetically engineered foods, or biotechnology, are “essentially identical to conventional varieties and pose no greater risk than non-GMO food products. … Biotech products are safe.”
He said he is not opposed to labeling requirements, but believes the federal government, through the Food and Drug Administration, should develop voluntary labeling standards.
Jamie Pfuhl, president of the Minnesota Grocers Association, agreed with allowing the federal government to enact labeling legislation. A state-by-state approach would create a “patchwork” of regulations, she said, a challenge for stores that receive products from other states and countries.
Foods exempted from the labeling requirements under the bill would include:
n Food offered for immediate consumption, such as at a restaurant.
n Processed foods containing less than 0.9 percent of genetically modified ingredients.
n Certified organic foods or seeds.
n Animals fed or injected with genetically engineered products.
Parrott writes for the nonpartisan Session Daily (www.house.leg.state.mn.us/sessiondaily) in the Minnesota House Public Information Office.