Hearing On Labeling For GE Foods Draws Crowd In New Jersey

Bipartisan legislation would require disclosure of genetically altered ingredients currently found in most processed foods.

A large crowd of consumer, environmental, labor, health, farming, faith and business activists packed a hearing of the State Senate Health Committee today where a bill to require the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods was being discussed.

The legislation, A3192/S1367, has been co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of a dozen lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly. The hearing was the first step in what activists are hopeful will be the passage of the first statewide GE labeling law in the nation.

Since their introduction to the market more than a decade ago there has been an explosion of GE foods on the shelves of grocery stores. Inadequate testing of these products by government agencies and a reliance on industry-produced health and safety data has resulted in a growing GE labeling movement across the nation.

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“I believe this to be a very complex issue that warrants serious discussion by all concerned parties. I am certainly pleased that we have opened the door and have finally begun that process,” said State Senator Robert Singer. “Any measure that may have the capacity to have long reaching effects on the public should be vetted by that public.”

“The addition of a label for food with genetically modified material is only fair to consumers. Everyone should have the right to make informed decisions about the food they eat,” said Assemblywoman Linda Stender. “There are no studies on the direct impact of these products and the more I learn about the genetic changes in our food the more I am concerned about the adverse effects on our long term health.”

“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 that may or may not be safe for their families,” said Jim Walsh, regional director of Food & Water Watch, which works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced. “Today’s hearing was the start of a process that New Jersians expect will result in a strong GE labeling law for our state.”

Labeling GE foods is not a novel idea. The European Union specifically addresses the new properties and risks of biotech crops by requiring all food, animal feed and processed products with GE contents to bear labels. The EU is among nearly 50 developed countries that require the GE products they import from U.S. to be labeled. Furthermore, a 2012 Mellman Group study showed that 91% of U.S. voters favored GE labeling requirements.

“There is broad concern about the impact of GE foods on our environment and the publc has a right to know if the and their families are consuming GE products,” said Jeff Tittel, director of New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is no different than current labeling practices we have for preservatives, high fructose corn syrup or organic blueberries. Consumers have a right to know so they can make informed choices and that is what this legislation does.”

“We strongly urge the legislature to support the bill to label genetically engineered products. Consumers have the right to know the ingredients in the food they purchase,” said Lucia Huebner, vice president of the Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New Jersey. “We are very concerned about issues such as cross contamination of seeds, integrity of agricultural ecosystems, protection of native pollinators and the wellbeing of farmers.”