STATE HOUSE – Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) has again this year introduced a bill calling for labeling of food products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“Rhode Island consumers have the right to know whether the foods they purchase were produced with genetic engineering so they can make informed purchasing decisions,” said Representative Canario. “Everyone has the right and deserves to know what exactly is in their food and this bill restores that right for Rhode Islanders.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about 70 percent of food products sold in supermarkets contain GMOs. 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.
U.S. government scientists have said that the artificial insertion of genetic material into plants via genetic engineering can cause a variety of significant problems with plant food, perhaps increasing the levels of known toxins or allergens that could cause health concerns.
The Canario legislation, 2016-H 7274, would add a definition to state law relative to genetically engineered products and would also set forth rules for labeling such products, beginning in January, 2017. Whether packaged food or a raw agricultural commodity, the item would need to be clearly labeled “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”
The Canario bill has been referred to the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. Co-sponsors include Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence), Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).