Three committees of the Hawaii Senate Thursday heard the House proposal to require labels on genetically modified food produced outside the state, and then they voted to table the bill for the current legislative session, effectively killing the bill.
Just two days earlier, House Bill (HB) 174 was considered dead after the Senate Agriculture Committee opted not to hear the proposal even though it passed the Hawaiian House by a 50 to 1 margin.
But on Tuesday, the Democrats who control Hawaii’s Senate held a closed door caucus and announced afterwards that the controversial GM food labeling bill would be heard after all by a joint meeting of the Agriculture, Health, and Consumer Affairs committees.
That closely controlled public hearing was held Thursday morning and after it was over members from the three committees agreed to table HB 174.
Island agricultural interests, including some Monsanto Co. employees, testified to the safety of GM foods and argued labeling requirements would impose unnecessary costs on the food and agricultural industries.
Even supporters of the labeling law said that as it passed the House, HB 174 had flaws that needed to be fixed before it ever became law. But advocates insist the public has a right to know which foods contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
They’ve also pointed out that Hawaii’s papaya crop, which through genetic modification has rebounded since almost being wiped out in the early 1990s, now carries “GMO” labels when exported to Japan.
Since California’s Proposition 37, which would have mandated labeling of GM foods in that state, went down in defeat last November, numerous organic industry leaders have been trying to find a state that will adopt similar labeling requirements through the legislative process.
Genetically modified agriculture was also successful Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives, where language was included in continuing resolution that is intended to prevent federal courts from putting restrictions on GM crops that did not go through sufficient environmental assessment. It passed the House Thursday by a vote of 318 to 109, after the Senate approved it 73-26 a day earlier.
Opponents say the Congressional action removes one of the only legal tools for slowing or preventing the introduction of GM crops. The tactic was tried with GM sugar beets.© Food Safety News