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by Maureen Mahoney

Speaking before New Hampshire legislators last week, Dr. Michael K. Hansen, senior scientist with Consumers Union, sent a clear message: labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods won’t lead to out-of-control food costs.

Dr. Hansen’s presentation to the state’s House Environment and Agriculture Committee was in support of a proposed New Hampshire law that would ask manufacturers to label items that contain GE ingredients.

Dr. Hansen’s testimony countered the food industry’s oft-cited argument that GE labeling would raise the costs of everyday grocery items. Quoting a former European Union (EU) official, Dr. Hansen revealed that Europe saw no rise in food prices after implementation of a GE labeling rule. Moreover, he cited two studies that predicted a similarly small impact on prices — one projected a very small increase in yearly food costs due to a labeling bill, and the other predicted none. And just yesterday, the pro-GE labeling coalition Just Label It! released a study likewise showing that labeling won’t raise prices.

Dr. Hansen also pointed to potential health problems associated with genetically engineered foods. He described a study that showed organ damage to animals that ate genetically engineered foods, damage that could potentially lead to disease, and also mentioned the data showing possible increased allergenicity of GE salmon. Noting how little independent research has been conducted on GE foods, he called for more independently-financed, long-term studies on their health effects.

Passage of the New Hampshire bill affects not only residents of that state – it’s significant to consumers elsewhere in New England. The governor of Connecticut has already signed a law requiring GE food labeling, but it will only go into effect if several other states, and at least one neighboring state, pass labeling laws as well. Vermont and Maine, too, have bills pending that may depend on the passage of labeling laws in other states.

Consumers Union strongly supports GE labeling. You can help fight for GE labeling too — please sign our petition to call for a national labeling law!