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Friday, January 28, 2011
SB 713 & 712: Luddites attack Hawaii agriculture
By News Release @ 1:39 PM :: 5988 Views :: Energy, Environment

Senate Hears Anti-Biotech Bills: Testimony Needed

From www.hciaonline.com

The Senate Committee on Energy and Environment, chaired by Senator Mike Gabbard, and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, chaired by Senator Clarence Nishihara, will hold a joint hearing that includes two anti-biotech bills:

Tuesday, February 1, 2:55 p.m.  Hawaii State Capitol - Room 225

Please consider submitting testimony in opposition to SB 713 - Relating to the Labeling of Genetically Engineered Crops, and SB 712 - Relating to Genetically Engineered Plants.

Comments can be submitted on the web at the State Capitol website.  To learn more about how to submit written testimony, click on the Citizen's Guide and go to page 17.  This is your chance to be heard by your elected officials and support the important work of the biotechnology industry in Hawaii.

TALKING POINTS ON BILLS

 

SB 713 would require a label that says "Genetically Engineered" to be placed on whole foods sold in Hawaii.  Since the transgenic papaya is currently the only produce that would be targeted by this law, its passage would have catastrophic economic consequences on Hawaii's papaya farmers since the label is intended to scare people from purchasing the fruit. We oppose labeling because:

  • Labeling requirements, as regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, is intended to communicate information that is relevant to health, safety and nutrition.
  • In the scientific judgement of the FDA, there is no significant difference between foods produced using biotechnology and their conventional counterparts.
  • Further, the FDA's scientific evaluation of biotech foods continues to show that these foods are as safe as their conventional counterparts. 
  • With over one trillion servings of biotech foods consumed by the public, there has never been a documented incident of any harm to the health of consumers (unlike the recent ecoli and salmonella outbreaks involving non-GE produce).
  • According to the FDA, labeling focuses on the final product, not the process used to develop a food product.
  • Labeling from state-to-state would not only conflict with FDA guidelines, but would be costly and confusing to consumers and only serve to disparage foods improved by biotechnology.
  • People opposed to genetically engineered foods have the ability to choose produce that is already labelled "organic" - a marketing tool used by organic growers to differentiate their product and thereby enabling them to command a premium price over conventional and genetically engineered produce.
  • Our papaya farmers are already struggling and have suffered recent attacks against their farms - for whatever reason. Since they would be the first commodity to comply with unnecessary labeling required if this bill passed, it would be an economic burden to their long term viability and likely result in the loss of many small family papaya farming operations.

SB 712 would require the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture to make public the location of field tests of genetically engineered plants.  If passed, researchers in the public and private sector would be at risk of million-dollar losses in theft and vandalism by eco-terrorists and other activists philosophically opposed to biotechnology.  We oppose this bill because:

  • Three U.S. regulatory bodies - the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review and evaluate agricultural biotechnology.
  • These agencies are provided information required for oversight including the location and the traits in the crop that lead to improved agricultural genetic charactistics.
  • Farmers who follow agriculture best practices know that discussions with neighbor farmers are necessary to ensure crop varietal purity - no matter if it is conventional, organic or biotech crops.
  • The USDA believes so strongly in the safety of biotech crops that it announced just last week that it will fully deregulate a variety of biotech alfalfa.
  • This decision comes after a comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS) conducted by USDA which analyzed the potential environmental impact of RR alfalfa, and concluded that it is safe and does not represent a plant pest risk to other farmers or the public.
  • The decision was based on sound science and two decades of regulatory precedence, and it supports President Obama's pledge to support science-based decision-making.
  • Innovations brought about by agricultural biotechnology over the years allow growers to produce more food, feed and fiber on less land, often with significant environmental benefits. 
  • Our opposition to public disclosure of either regulated research or approved commercial biotech crops is based on fear of vandalism, or worse, threat of worker safety and destruction of crops by those not supportive of the technology.
  • We ask Hawaii lawmakers to share the commitment by President Obama to expand agriculture, to keep pace with the latest scientific developments, and to take into account the needs of all producers and all types of production.

---30---

For more information about the bills, please contact Alicia Maluafiti, HCIA Executive Director, at director@hciaonline.com.  We look forward to seeing your testimony!

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