Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has warned the state legislature that a proposed bill to require labeling of foods with ingredients produced with genetic engineering will be tough to defend in court. The bill could violate the First Amendment and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and could be preempted by federal law, she wrote in an analysis.
“While there are some changes that could make the bill more defensible from a constitutional standpoint, the bill would remain subject to significant challenge in the courts,” she warned.
Maine L.D. 718 would require that all genetically engineered food offered for retail sale in the state would have to carry a label, or be accompanied by a sign, that states “Produced with Genetic Engineering.” The bill would not go into effect unless similar legislation is adopted in at least five other states or in states with a combined population of at least 20 million.
“If enacted, L.D. 718 is certain to face legal challenges on constitutional grounds and these constitutional issues are significant,” Mills wrote to legislative leaders. “To date, no other state has enacted a law requiring the labeling of genetically engineered food. Litigation on constitutional grounds will be costly, and the outcome is far from certain.”
The legislature’s Agriculture Committee endorsed the bill on a 12-4 vote, sending it to the House of Representatives for a floor vote. Read more.
The biotechnology industry won a big case in the U.S. Supreme Court today with a unanimous judgment in favor of Monsanto Co. in a lawsuit brought by an Indiana farmer who disputed Monsanto’s ability to protect the patents on its genetically modified seeds. The court rejected the claims of the farmer, Vernon Bowman, that the company’s rights were “exhausted” by the first sale of soybean seeds.
“Bowman planted Monsanto’s patented soybeans solely to make and market replicas of them, thus depriving the company of the reward patent law provides for the sale of each article,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the full court. “Patent exhaustion provides no haven for that conduct.”
The industry’s trade association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), applauded the ruling.
“The Supreme Court’s commitment to uphold valid intellectual property rights in this case creates business certainty that will benefit all of biotechnology - as well as the patients, farmers, and consumers who benefit from biotechnology’s help in healing, feeding and fueling the world,” BIO President Jim Greenwood said.
The text of Justice Kagan’s opinion is available here: http://1.usa.gov/16ursLm
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Farmers on the Hawaiian island of Kauai recently took out an ad in the local newspaper to answer questions about the genetically engineered crops they raise. “We want to set the record straight about how we farm on the Garden Island,” the ad says.
The farmers address concerns over the use of pesticides, the impact on the local environment, the regulation of genetically engineered crops, and former practice of saving seeds.
See the ad on this page for the facts about modern farming in Hawaii and other areas.
Betsie Estes, Roxi Beck and Charlie Arnot at BIO 2013
CHICAGO- If business wants to communicate effectively with consumers, it must be sensitive to their values and their language, according to Charlie Arnot of the Center for Food Integrity (CFI).
Speaking at the recent BIO 2013 International Convention, Arnot said business shouldn’t waste time arguing with consumers over terminology, such as whether “genetic engineering” is a better term than “genetic modification.”
“‘GM’ has become the cultural nomenclature for this issue,” he said, “and we have to say that to be in the debate. The conversation is about food safety. It is not about language.”
“Don’t debate the language. If we debate the language, we are missing the point,” he said. Arnot said his observations are based on extensive research with consumers and on a peer-reviewed research model.
Appearing with Betsie Estes and Roxie Beck of BestFoodFacts.org, Arnot said that food safety is the key issue for consumers.
“Food safety trumps everything else. If we can’t pass the food safety threshold, we can’t do anything else.”
Arnot urged companies and industries to be open to public concerns and to proactive “authentic transparency - the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
“Authentic transparency reduces fear of the unknown,” he said.
CHICAGO - Neal Carter has big plans for the non-browning apple.
The CEO of Okanagan Specialty Fruits in Summerland, British Columbia, is awaiting regulatory approval of the genetically modified Arctic® Apple, which doesn’t turn brown after being cut or sliced. The company is starting with Granny and Golden apples and plans to branch out into eight to ten other varieties after United States regulators sign off, he said.
“We can make any variety of apple non-browning,” he said in an interview during the BIO 2013 International Convention.
Carter says he hopes to commercialize the Arctic® Apple in the fall of 2015 in both retail and foodservice channels. He said that he expects to have an international market as well and has had expressions of interest from people in the United Kingdom, South Africa and China.
In the pipeline, he said, are traits that could deal with problems such as fire blight, a major disease of apples that is currently treated with antibiotic sprays, in both conventional and organic production.
Carter predicts that genetic engineering in plants, now found mainly in commodity crops, will soon spread into specialty crops - fruits and vegetables.
“The grocers are expecting it to happen,” he said.