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Committee Gives GMO Labeling Bill Thumbs Down

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A House committee voted 12 to 8  to recommende against passing a bill that would require retailers to label foods containing genetically modified crops, or GMOs. The vote means the chances are slim of getting the bill through a divided legislature.

Both Democrats and Republicans were among the 12 voting against the GMO labeling bill, citing concerns from its cost of enforcement to its constitutionality. The bill’s proponents contend that even though there is scant scientific evidence of harm currently being caused by these crops, concerned consumers have a right to know what they are eating.

“If the internet wasn’t here, I would have more of a conflict with this bill, but I know that folks can find out what they need to find out,” says Republican Guy Comtois, one of the nay votes and a farm-stand owner himself. He and others who voted against the bill say the labeling question is really a federal one.

Many proponents, like Democrat Peter Bixby, agree that the issue should ultimately be dealt with in Washington – perhaps through regulations from the Food and Drug Administration – but think the states can lead.

“This would help push the feds on this issue,” Bixby told fellow lawmakers.

An amendment to the bill would have created a trigger, requiring four other northeastern states to adopt labeling laws before it took effect. Connecticut already has such a law, and one has been passed in Maine but the governor is waiting to sign the bill because of concerns of a lawsuit.

Bixby says supporters will try to revive the measure once it hits the floor of the House of Representatives where they hope to find more support. But even if it cleared that hurdle, chances that it can get through the Republican-dominated Senate when critics characterize it as a mandate on business are uncertain at best.

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. He shifted gears in 2016 and began producing Outside/In, a podcast and radio show about “the natural world and how we use it.” His work has won him several awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards, one national Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club of America's award for best environmental reporting in any medium. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.
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