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March 20, 2014

To: House Committee on Agriculture

Rep. Jessica Wooley, Chair

Rep. Richard H.K. Onishi, Vice Chair

 

From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

President Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.

 

RE: SB 2435 HD1 PROPOSED — RELATING TO AGRICULTURE

 

Dear Chair and Committee Members:

From ancient times the Hippocratic Oath counseled physicians with the mandate: First, do no harm.

Lawmakers would be well advised to follow the same principle whenever considering actions that would impact free enterprise and the benefits that accrue to citizens through the production and exchange of goods and services.

There is no question that the imposition of regulations, such as labeling requirements for the presence of genetically modified foods that further place the burden of absorbing the penalty upon the retailer, will have an adverse effect upon businesses, the economy and ultimately upon consumers.

The real question is whether suspected harms of genetically modified organisms have been sufficiently documented to warrant the restrictions upon business being proposed by SB 2435.

The consensus of peer-reviewed science has not, however, found GMO-enhanced agriculture to be harmful to human life, and in fact has found GMO crops to be highly beneficial to humanity.

While there are many nonscientific claims of harm, and that there are many fears by those who do not accept the consensus of scientific research, it is important for lawmakers not to act hastily.

The imposition of the regulations that would be mandated by SB 2435 would result in the following harms to business and consumers:

  1. It raises the cost and the liability of doing business in Hawaii for our agriculture industry, threatening the growth of one of the few non-tourism sectors that is helping our economy improve. In fact, this bill may even push some smaller businesses into closing; it will certainly require them to raise their prices.
  2. It creates a regulatory burden for Hawaii’s retailers that they will find both cost-prohibitive and difficult to comply with. They too will be forced to raise prices to cover the costs associated with compliance.
  3. The labeling scheme is likely to confuse or mislead consumers as to the safety of the products concerned. In addition, consumers will have to deal with increased food prices in a state that already has a very high cost of living.

Since there is such a strong conflict between the findings of peer-reviewed science and the claims of those who oppose the use of GMO’s, the responsible course of action for lawmakers should be to call for further scientific research to clarify our understanding.

This would be a prudent step to take before imposing measures that clearly would have a harmful effect upon the economy and upon the ability of everyday citizens to live in this economy.  For now, the public good is better served by government restraint.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit our testimony.

 

Sincerely,

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.

President, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii