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In response to a proposed state law (A. 3192/S. 1367) that would require labeling for bio-engineered food, New Jersey farmers, retailers' foodmakers and other industry members have said they would “vigorously oppose” any such measure. According to labeling opponents, the “deeply flawed” proposals now in the New Jersey’s General Assembly would jack up family food bills, place New Jersey farmers and businesses at a competitive disadvantage, and run counter to peer-reviewed scientific studies that confirm the safety of genetically modified food products.
“There are no safety or health benefits to labeling bio-engineered food,” said Linda Doherty, president of the Trenton-based New Jersey Food Council (NJFC). “Just last summer, the American Medical Association said there is no justification for special labeling of bio-engineered foods. And the United States Food and Drug Administration maintains there is no difference in safety between bio-engineered foods and those produced by conventional means.”
The measure, continued Doherty, “will hurt New Jersey household budgets. The proposed legislation calls for a ‘New Jersey-only’ labeling standard that will exist nowhere else in this country. It’s a recipe for dramatically increased food costs for New Jersey families.”
A resolution passed early this month at the New Jersey State Agriculture Convention expressed strong opposition to the required labeling of food products made with bio-engineered ingredients, and California voters rejected a similar food-labeling measure three months ago.
Citing studies finding that mandatory labels for genetically modified foods would be costly for the state government and consumers, NJFC went on to note that those who wish to purchase non-FMO food products are already able to do so, and that those who sell and label such items receive “clear direction” from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which permits voluntary labeling of foods without genetically modified ingredients.
Meanwhile, a coalition of consumer, environmental, labor, student, health, farming, faith and business organizations has launched a statewide campaign to pass legislation requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods in New Jersey. The coalition presented a letter signed by more than 30 state advocacy groups calling on legislative leaders to move the labeling bill through the legislature.
“Over the years, consumers have fought for labeling of calorie counts, saturated fat content and ingredients lists so they can make smarter, healthier choices for their families,” observed Jim Walsh, regional director of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Food & Water Watch, one of the coalition’s member organizations. “But as food production technology evolves, so should our food labeling. Consumers have a right to know which products on market shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients.”
Nearly 50 countries require the genetically modified products they import from the United States to be labeled, noted the coalition, which cited a 2012 study from the Washington, D.C.-based Mellman Group finding that 91 percent of U.S. voters favored similar labeling requirements.