GENTECH archive 8.96-97
U.S. States Debate GMO Labeling Laws
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- Subject: U.S. States Debate GMO Labeling Laws
- From: Purefood@aol.com
- Date: Thu, 3 Apr 1997 07:25:39 -0500 (EST)
[toolbar] Natural Foods Merchandiser: April 1997
Biotech Bills Blossom On State Agendas
MONTPELIER, Vt.--Four states have biotechnology-related
bills on their agendas for the current session,
signaling an interest in the issue by some legislators.
In Vermont, new legislation follows the repeal of a
mandatory recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)
labeling law, which, among other things, required
retailers to place a "blue dot" on dairy products made
from milk produced by cows given rBGH. That portion of
the former law was declared unconstitutional last
August, when a panel of judges said it violated milk
producers' freedom of speech (see October NFM, page 6).
However, Vermont Sens. Cheryl Rivers and Elizabeth
Ready recently introduced legislation (S.73), which
continues the existing law that allows manufacturers to
label products rBGH-free, but drops the mandatory
labeling section. In addition, the new legislation
requires farmers who use rBGH to notify milk handlers.
"This improves verification of the rBGH-free claim,"
says Steven Heim, program director for Rural Vermont, a
family-farming advocacy group based in Montpelier.
"This bill is good because it continues to protect the
consumer's right to know. But what is really needed is
for all genetically engineered foods to be labeled."
The first hearing on the bill, in the Vermont Senate
Agriculture Committee, was scheduled for late February.
Similar legislation in Massachusetts was introduced by
Lois Pines and is already in discussion in the
Massachusetts Joint Natural Resources Committee. The
bill, S.D. 1947, inserts a new section to the
Inspection and Sale of Food law already on the books in
that state, to require a label on dairy products
notifying consumers that the milk was obtained from
cows treated with any growth hormone. The label would
read as follows: "This milk was produced by cows
injected with synthetic BGH." This legislation also
requires distributors of dairy products that may
contain rBGH to keep records of all dairy transactions.
More sweeping biotechnology labeling is on the books
for Nebraska and Maine. In those states, lawmakers are
considering legislation that would require labeling of
genetically engineered foods or food organisms. In
Maine, Rep. Paul Chartrand introduced the bill, which
asks manufacturers to include the words "genetically
engineered," the source of the genetic material and the
purpose of the genetic engineering on the label.
According to the National Food Processors Association's
State Legislative Update, the Maine bill would also ask
retailers to post this information on a conspicuous
sign and display genetically engineered foods
Nebraska's bill, introduced by Sen. Jennie Robak, also
requires labeling of all genetically engineered foods.
At press time, it was in discussion in the Nebraska
Agriculture Committee. "All the surveys have indicated
that this is a good move for politicians," says Ronnie
Cummins, executive director of the Minnesota-based
Pure Food Campaign. "We've seen studies that say 90
percent of all consumers want mandatory biotechnology
In the meantime, The New York Times reported recently
that Novartis, a giant Swiss agribusiness company is
preparing to advocate that all genetically engineered
crops and foods made from them be clearly labeled.
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