DENVER (AP) - Coloradolawmakers Thursday rejected a proposal that would have required geneticallyengineered food to be labeled, amid fears that the mandate would burden farmersand raise food prices.
A Democratic House committee voted 7-2 against the bill aftermore than five hours of emotional testimony from mothers seeking labels andfarmers saying the requirement would hurt them. The lawmakers ultimately sidedwith farm groups that said the change would need to be done on a federal leveland not by an individual state.
"That's a price Washington should not ask one state'scitizens to bear," concluded Rep. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton.
More than 60 countries require genetically modified foods to belabeled, but the U.S. isn't one of them. Only Alaska has enacted legislationrequiring the labeling of genetically engineered fish and shellfish products.
The federal government and dozens more states are consideringsimilar label requirements amid complaints from consumers that geneticallyengineered foods may be unsafe.
"Who's going to protect us? Who's going to let us knowwhat's in our food?" asked Marie Weller, a Colorado Springs mother ofthree who brought her daughters and son to the hearing.
The bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jeanne Labuda of Denver,said consumers deserve to know more about how their food is produced.
"People want to know what's in the food that we'reeating," said Labuda, who argued that food producers already have to labelfoods containing certain additives or allergens, so an added GMO labelshouldn't be a burden.
"For some reason, we are not afforded that same informationwhen it comes to genetically engineered foods," Labuda said. "Weconsumers deserve to know that information."
Lawmakers also heard from a wheat farmer who said geneticallymodified foods can require fewer pesticides and less water, and that labelrequirements wouldn't help consumers but would burden food producers.
"Should this bill become a law, the real impact will befelt by consumers at the checkout counter," said Dusty Talmon of theColorado Association of Wheat Growers.
Many scientists say the labels aren't useful because geneticallymodified or engineered foods are safe. California voters last year rejected astatewide labeling requirement.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science -publisher of Science magazine - has said genetically engineered food is nodifferent from conventional foods and that labels for GMO, or geneticallymodified organisms, would "mislead and falsely alarm consumers."
One of Colorado's members of Congress has suggested a nationallabeling law. Democratic Rep. Jared Polis has said consumers need theinformation.
Labuda said she wasn't sure whether a label requirement wouldboost food prices. But she said the requirement is worthwhile as consumers facestores full of produce that seems to have changed over the years. Labuda talkedabout seeing fresh tomatoes in the dead of winter.
"All I know is, they don't taste like tomatoes," shesaid.