Should Minnesota require genetically modified food labeling?

A “Produced with Genetic Engineering” label could one day make its appearance in Minnesota stores.

Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls) sponsors HF3140, which would regulate disclosure of genetically engineered food and seed. The House Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee held an informational hearing on the bill Thursday. There is no Senate companion.

“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 or possession.

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’s 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.

Right: Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls) sponsors HF3140.

Perry Aasness, executive director of the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, said that science has shown that 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 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 HF3140 would include:

  • food offered for immediate consumption, such as at a restaurant;
  • processed foods containing less than 0.9 percent of genetically modified ingredients;
  • certified organic foods or seeds; and
  • animals fed or injected with genetically engineered products
  • Rep Clark noted that it is normal states to pass their own legislation before there is federal legislation. This was the case with national organic labeling as well, an example that the opposition cited. It was 30 states passing organic standards legislation that led to the formation of national organic standards. - by Right to Know Minnesota on Sat, 04/26/2014 - 12:52am
  • Its all about money, just not the money people think. What the push for GE labeling is really all about: }“How– and how quickly – can we move healthy, organic products from a 4.2% market niche, to the dominant force in American food and farming? The first step is to change our labeling laws." ◦- Ronnie Cummins 2012 ◦ “Personally, I believe GM foods must be banned entirely, but labeling is the most efficient way to achieve this” ◦- Dr. Joseph Mercola ◦ ◦“We are going to force them to label this food. If we have it labeled we can organize people not to buy it.” Andrew Kimbell-Center for Food Safety ◦ ◦"Asked whether the ultimate objective is transparency in labeling (what the Just Label It campaign is calling for) or elimination of GMOs, she said: 'Our objective is to eliminate GMOs [from the US food supply] but we also see [mandatory] GMO labeling as a useful tool in the meantime because we know that transitioning to a non-GMO supply chain will take time.'" Elizabeth O'Connell, Campaigns Director for GMO Inside/Green America - by Robert Wager on Tue, 04/29/2014 - 4:01pm

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Andrea Parrott's picture
Andrea Parrott

Andrea Parrott is a freelance writer from the 'burbs. (Twitter: @andrea_parrott)