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New York to consider bill requiring labelling of genetically modified food

Posted: July 25, 2013 |   Comments

( The New York Assembly's Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection has scheduled a public hearing to debate the merits of a bill currently before the legislature that would require manufacturers to list whether their products contain genetically engineered ingredients.

The text of the bill, A.3525-A, states that the new law "provides for the labeling of food or food products that contain a genetically modified material or that are produced with a genetically modified material; defines terms; imposes penalties for false labels and misbranding; sets forth exemptions."

Similar measures have recently passed by the legislatures of Connecticut and Maine, but neither state will move forward with enforcement unless surrounding states, such as New York, follow suit and enact similar laws.

"In recent years, a consumer's ability to know if the food he or she eats contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has become a growing issue of contention," Jeffrey Dinowitz, the chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection, said in a statement. "Legislators in several states, including New York, have introduced legislation that would require foods containing GMOs to be labeled to indicate the presence of GMOs. Consumer and food advocates argue that a labeling requirement would provide consumers with a better understanding of the foods they buy. Retail, agricultural, and biotechnology advocates contend that such labeling requirements would be unnecessary, costly, and perhaps unlawful. This hearing seeks to solicit information regarding scientific research and data on the health and safety of GMOs in foods, federal and state policy related to foods containing GMOs, and the potential economic and legal implications of requiring labels on foods containing GMOs."

The bill's primary sponsor, Manhattan Democrat Linda Rosenthal, told the Daily News that the primary issue is one of transparency for consumers.

"When it comes to what you put into your body, it's important that, as a consumer, you know as much as possible," Rosenthal said.

GMO seed manufacturer Monsanto, on the other hand, argues that there is no proof that genetically engineered foods are unsafe for human consumption.

"We oppose current initiatives to mandate labeling of ingredients developed from GM seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risks," the company says on its website. "Such mandatory labeling could imply that food products containing these ingredients are somehow inferior to their conventional or organic counterparts."

The hearing on the bill will take place at 10 a.m. on July 30 in the East Dining Room at Lehman College in New York City. Only those invited to testify will be able to speak, but citizens who wish to have their views included in the written record can submit it to the committee, and the general public is invited to attend the meeting.

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