New Mexico legislature blocks bioengineering labeling bill

by Keith Nunes
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SANTA FE, N.M. — Legislation introduced in early January by New Mexico state senator Peter Wirth that would have required the labeling of bioengineered foods sold in the state was rejected by the state legislature due to a procedural issue. Mr. Wirth said he will not reintroduce the bill during this session of the state’s legislature.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, a procedural mistake meant that after the senate voted to reject a report on the bill from the Senate Public Affairs Committee on Jan. 30, the Senate should have considered the bill “deemed lost” instead of ordering the bill to another committee, under Senate rules.

“Instead of allowing the committee process to run its course, this procedural rule was invoked to stop the debate in its tracks,” Mr. Wirth told the newspaper.

The procedural rejection comes more than a week after the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee released a report on Jan. 22 highlighting the impact the legislation may have had on the state’s economy if it was passed.

In the report the New Mexico Environment Department said, the “mandatory labeling of G.M.F.s (genetically modified foods) has been proposed throughout the United States., but has never been enacted at the national, state, or local level. Every food manufacturer in the world who sells/distributes food in New Mexico would have to modify current labeling for food items shipped to New Mexico.

“S.B. (senate bill) 18 states, ‘a genetically modified food product that is offered for sale in the state shall be labeled to indicate that the product contains genetically modified material.’ This would imply food offered for sale through restaurants that has genetically modified material in its ingredients would also need to be labeled a genetically modified food. The fiscal impact on the restaurant industry would be significant.”

The N.M.E.D. added that the costs associated with the labeling of bioengineered foods would put New Mexico food processors at a disadvantage when they tried to sell their products outside of the state. The group also noted that the legislation may cause confusion for consumers, because the proposed labeling did address the health or safety aspects of a product.
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