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January 23, 2014

N.H. House kills bill labeling genetically engineered foods

CONCORD — The House yesterday killed a bill requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods in New Hampshire, 185-162.

Proponents, during a more than 90-minute debate, unsuccessfully pushed to get the House to overturn the 12-8 recommendation by the Environment and Agriculture Committee to reject House Bill 660.

“It will allow the New Hampshire consumer to know what is in the food they are purchasing and feeding to family and friends,” said Rep. Lisa Whittemore, D-Londonderry.

More than 60 nations require such labeling, she said.

“I find it hard to believe providing New Hampshire consumers with this information is setting too high a bar,” Whittemore said.

Lawmakers on both sides of the debate acknowledged receiving calls and emails from concerned constituents.

“Support their right to know,” Whittemore said.

Rep. James Parison, R-New Ipswich, questioned whether consumers fully understood the complicated bill.

“They’re just being swept along by the crowd,” Parison said.

Rep. Linda Lauer, D-Bath, while saying she sympathized with consumers, argued the bill would result in misleading labels and increase costs for consumers, retailers and the state.

Lauer also pointed to insulin and cheese ingredients that are genetically engineered and deemed good for health.

“Just because something is genetically engineered doesn’t mean it is bad,” Lauer said.

Parison expressed concern for Hoppy’s Country Store in New Ipswich and other small stores that could be forced to label foods or face fines.

“This penalty on retailers makes no sense,” Parison said.

Rep. Tara Sad, D-Walpole, warned the bill could saddle the state with hundreds of thousands of dollars in enforcement and administrative expenses, while exposing the state to potentially millions in damages from food makers.

The issue is best left to the federal government, she said, especially since such products have not been proven unsafe over decades of consumption.

“All of us have been eating (them) safely over 20 years,” she said.

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