History of HB660 by NH Right to Know GMO

On January 3, 2013 HB660 "Requiring the Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods & Agricultural Commodities,” was introduced to the New Hampshire State legislature and assigned to the House Environment & Agricultural Commodities Committee. HB 660 is sponsored by Representatives Maureen Mann, Linda Massimilla, Robert Perry, Suzanne Smith, and Ian Raymond.

The bill establishes that any human food offered for retail sale in this state shall be deemed misbranded if not properly labeled as a genetically engineered food. The bill would require labels to be placed on any food items produced entirely or partly through genetic engineering. We are waiting for an amendment, which we expect will make NH’s bill to be similar to the one that recently passed in Connecticut and Maine, and has passed Vermont’s House. (Their Senate will vote in January.)

After a nearly five-hour hearing convened by the House Environment and Agriculture Committee on February 28, 2013, the bill is being retained in Committee. A subcommittee of the Environment and Agriculture Committee was formed to study this bill. The Subcommittee includes: Rep. Peter Bixby, Chair; Rep. Tara Sad (Environment & Agriculture Chair); Rep. Bob Haeffner, Rep. Jane Johnson, Rep. Wayne Moynihan, Rep. Alan Turcotte, Rep. Linda Lauer, Rep. Scott Burns, and Rep. Lisa Whittemore. Contact information for these representatives can be found at:  http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/committeedetails.aspx?code=H06

The Subcommittee began their work on August 13, with testimony by Rep. Lance Harvell, (R-Farmington, Maine). Rep. Harvell, a conservative Republican, was the primary sponsor of Maine’s bill requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods and food ingredients, which was passed in June by Maine’s House and Senators. At this work session, Subcommittee members also discussed possible amendments to the bill.

On September 3, the guest speaker was Dr. Michael Hansen of Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. Dr. Hansen testified before a standing-room only crowd. Dr. Hansen’s testimony can be found at:
http://consumersunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/NH-Testimony-GE-Labeling-0913.pdf

On September 10, we heard from NH native, Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stoneyfield Farm and Just Label It!, and Rabbi Eric Cohen. Gary Hirshberg’s testimony can be found at:
http://nhrighttoknowgmo.org/Testimony/0910-Hirshberg.pdf

We continued on September 17 with four farmers, two of whom use genetically engineered seeds.


September  24 brought Greg Costa (Grocery Manufacturer’s Association), Val Giddings (Sr. Fellow, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation), John Dumais (President, NH Grocers Association), Attorney George Moore, and Roger Noonan, President, New England Farmers Union.

On October 1, we heard testimony from Bill Couzens of Less Cancer.
http://www.lesscancer.org/new-hampshire-hearing-labeling-and-gmo/. Mr. Couzens was followed by Vermont Rep. Carolyn Partridge, who is the chair of the Vt. House Agriculture Committee. We also heard from Laura Murphy, Director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School. Her testimony can be found here:
http://nhrighttoknowgmo.org/Testimony/1001-Murphy.pdf. The final speaker was Attorney Chris Nicolopoulos of Preti Flaherty, who wrote much of the amended version of the bill.


On October 8, the Subcommittee members reviewed the pivotal issues, which they had established early in the proceedings: Religious implications; the negative connotation of labeled foods (skull and crossbones); constitutionality; uniformity of labels; uniformity of definitions; the financial impact on farmers; concern that distributors would not provide food to NH; should oil and sugar be labeled, since they contain no DNA; should restaurants be included; risks in crops and the level of risks and how would labeling enable us to manage the risks; trigger clause; cost to department responsible for overseeing the bill; would it be better to label products that are GMO-free, rather than those that contain GMOs; what would the cost be to consumers; and, right to know. They felt that each item on that list had been addressed. They also reviewed additional articles and documents that they wanted to be added to the record. Letters from NH’s four Congresswomen in Washington DC were read into the record. Excerpts of those documents can be read at http://nhrighttoknowgmo.org/Of_Interest/Entries/2013/10/30_State_vs_Federal.html


On October 15, we heard testimony from nationally recognized Attorney Steven Druker, Executive Director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, who testified by conference call. Attorney Druker provided the subcommittee with a document containing the points he made, although he does not wish this to be considered as a transcript. During the question period, Attorney Druker also talked extensively about the lawsuit that the Alliance for BIo-Integrity filed in 1998, to reform the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy on genetically engineered (GE) foods. Attorney’s points can be found at: http://nhrighttoknowgmo.org/Testimony/SDruker.pdf. The lawsuit summary can be found at: http://nhrighttoknowgmo.org/Testimony/DrukerLawsuit.pdf. We also heard from Chris Miller, the Social Mission Activism Manager from Ben and Jerry’s. His testimony is here: http://nhrighttoknowgmo.org/Testimony/CMiller.BenJerry.pdf


On October 22, Representative Maureen Mann made a final plea to the Subcommittee in favor of the proposed amended bill, by presenting a summary of the testimony that was heard over the previous nine weeks, and introduced a few new thoughts, such as the recent statement by many scientists that "the claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist." She conversed with the subcommittee, rather than read a testimony, but the notes she used can be found at:  http://nhrighttoknowgmo.org/Testimony/MaureenMann.pdf. We also heard from a representative from Health & Human Services, who spoke about the impact of the bill on her department; she admitted that there really isn’t any way of know what the impact will be. Discussion was also made about how the amended bill could be reworded to make the burden easier on Health & Human Services, including clarifying the method of enforcement.


On October 29, the subcommittee finalized their decision, and voted 4:3 to recommend that HB660 “ought to pass as amended” (OTPA). The following NH Reps voted in favor of the bill: Subcommittee Chair Peter Bixby (D- Cheshire 1, Dover); Scott Burns (D-Merrimack 2, Franklin); Allenstown); Wayne Moynihan (D-Committee V-Chair, Coos 2, Dummer) and Lisa Whittermore (D-Rockingham 5, Londonderry). Voting against the bill were Bob Haefner (R-Hillsborough 37, Hudson); Jane Johnson (R-Cheshire 12, Swanzey); and Tara Sad (D-Committee Chair-Cheshire 1, Walpole). Not present were Alan Turcotte (D- Merrimack 22) and Linda Lauer (D-Grafton 15, Bath).


On November 7, the full Environment and Agriculture Committee had an Executive Session for three bills, including HB660. Subcommittee Chairman Bixby made a presentation of the findings and recommendations of the Subcommittee to the full Environment and Agriculture Committee. Following lengthy discussion, the committee voted against the will of 90% of NH citizens. By a narrow margin (12:8), the final determination was to recommend to the House that HB660 is “Inexpedient to Legislate.” (The committee recommended that the House “kill the bill.”) Details may be found at: http://tinyurl.com/NHRTK-Vote


Regardless of the recommendation of the Environmental and Agricultural Committee, per NH regulations, the bill still had to be voted on by the 395 members of the NH House of Representatives.


HB660 was voted on Wednesday, January 22. By a narrow margin, NH Legislators voted that HB660 was “ITL” - inexpedient to legislate. (The majority voted “AYE” to “kill the bill.”) Had only 24 of our Representatives voted differently, the bill would have progressed to the next step, which would have allowed introduction of the proposed amendment. Unfortunately, due to parliamentary procedures, discussion as to how that amendment would address many of the objections we heard was not allowed.


For a list of how NH Representatives voted, go to:

http://nhrighttoknowgmo.org/HB660Votes.html



Trigger Clauses

Like many other bills, including those in Connecticut and Maine, HB660’s proposed amendment has a “trigger clause.” A trigger clause is a condition that must be met once a law has been passed for the law to go into effect.

Connecticut, the first state to pass a labeling law, requires four other states to have a similar law. One of those states must be a bordering state (MA, RI or NY). In addition, they require an aggregate population of 20 million (per 2010 census) to be covered by a similar labeling law. The Northeast is defined as Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Maine, the second state to pass a labeling law, requires at least five contiguous states, including Maine, to have a similar law. New Hampshire must pass our labeling law for Maine’s bill to be enacted, as we are their only bordering state. Their Act takes effect 30 days after certifying that the contiguous states requirement has been met.

The amendment to New Hampshire’s HB660 requires that four other states in the Northeast adopt legislation requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. (CT and Maine will count as two of these.) Once this condition has been met, the act will still allow 18 months before taking effect. It is expected that much of the Northeast will enact similar laws simultaneously.

Why HB660 didn’t pass

The recommendation from the policy committee that the bill not be passed made our job more difficult. There is much information out there that is incorrect. We need to present facts, not emotions. Here are some of the objections we heard from NH Reps on the committee: http://tinyurl.com/NHRTK-Objections



Please send corrections and updates or questions to info@NHRightToKnowGMO.org

What is HB 660?

House Bill 660 was a law that would have required the labeling of genetically engineered or genetically modified organisms sold in New Hampshire.

Unfortunately, HB 660 did not pass. It was rejected by the NH House by a narrow margin: 185-162.

An amendment had been proposed to HB660, but it was not allowed to be introduced. The amendment can be seen here: http://nhrighttoknowgmo.org/Amendment_To_HB660.pdf. The amendment is significantly different from the original bill, keeping it more in line with the similar bill in CT, Maine and other states.

The amendment saw new life, when it was reintroduced as Senate Bill 411.

For a list of how NH Representatives voted, go to:

http://nhrighttoknowgmo.org/HB660Votes.html


  http://tinyurl.com/NHRTK-Volunteer