GMO BILLS SURVIVE
The first bill to be heard this session regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) not only passed out of the Senate committee on energy and the environment Jan. 31, but was expanded. SB 615, which originally prohibited the sale of unlabeled genetically engineered (GE) fish, will now cover whole foods, as well.
“People have a right to know that the fish they’re eating isn’t even the real thing,” said Karly Williams in her testimony. “It’s clear as day that the people want their right to know.”
Though fewer than 10 people gave testimony at the hearing, 64 pages of written testimony were submitted beforehand, and another 27 pages were submitted late. Both written and oral testimony were overwhelmingly in support of GMO labeling.
The Hawaii Food Industry Association opposed the bill, saying it would be difficult to enforce and would place a burden on retailers. But committee member Sen. Russell Ruderman, the founder of Island Naturals Market on the Big Island, said he thinks the food industry may take a hit if labeling legislation isn’t passed. “If we have unlabeled GMO salmon, the only way for someone to avoid it is to not eat salmon, which also harms the food industry,” he said. “While I share [opponents’] concerns about labeling, I also want to protect our market.”
The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association also opposed the measure, saying that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers genetically altered salmon safe and virtually identical to natural salmon except that it matures more quickly.
Nomi Carmona of Babes Against Biotech, however, contended that there are significant nutritional differences between GE and unaltered fish and that consumers should be given the choice. She pointed to a lack of credible research in the area, saying that GMO foods are often approved after 90-day studies performed by their own companies.
James Macey said that the burden of proof should fall on the other side. “Until they can prove that this is 100 percent safe, we have to label it,” he said.
A second GMO labeling bill, HB 174, also passed out of committee Feb. 7.