STATE HOUSE – The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about 70 percent of food products sold in supermarkets contain genetically modified ingredients (sometimes referred to as GMOs, for genetically modified organisms).
A genetically engineered food is a plant or meat product that has had its DNA artificially altered in a laboratory by genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria. This type of genetic alteration is not found in nature and is experimental.
Unlike the strict safety evaluations required for the approval of new drugs, the safety of genetically engineered foods for human consumption is not adequately tested. There have been no long-term studies conducted on the safety of genetically engineered foods for humans, according to GMO Action Alliance, an alliance of grassroots organizations from states across the U.S. working to educate people about the issue.
Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) believes people have an absolute right to know what is in the food they are eating, or the drugs they are taking or the cosmetics they are using. “Knowledge is power and people need to know what they are putting into their bodies.”
Representative Canario has introduced legislation, (2014-H7042), that would add a definition to state law relative to genetically engineered products and that would also set forth rules for labeling such products. Whether packaged food or a raw agricultural commodity, the item would need to be clearly labeled “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”
“This is not only about the purity and safety of our food but also about the right of consumers to know what they are purchasing,” said Representative Canario. “I am not interested in launching a fight for an outright ban on genetically engineered products, but I am interested in educated consumers. When consumers know what is in the product they intend to buy, they can determine whether to buy it or not. But they should not be buying items without full and total disclosure of what the item contains.”
Maine and Connecticut are the only two legislatures that have so far passed GMO labeling bills, although similar legislation has been introduced in about 30 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Maine bill does not go into effect, however, until five nearby states similar labeling laws. Similarly, a provision of the Connecticut law is that it doesn’t take effect until a combination of Northeastern states that add up to 20 million residents pass similar legislation – a provision backers say is necessary to build a broad base of support.
“I believe Rhode Island should join this movement to make sure our residents are fully aware of what they are eating or can decide, through labeling, that what is being sold is not something they want to eat,” said Representative Canario.
The Canario bill has been referred to the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. Co-sponsors include Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly), Rep. Scott J. Guthrie (D-Dist. 27, Coventry), Rep. Raymond J. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) and Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth).
For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903