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Oregon House approves disallowing food labels, Texas House committee considers pharm crop legislation

(Monday, April 14, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- The Oregon House on Friday voted 43-8 (with nine members excused) in favor of HB 2957, which disallows local governments imposing any food labeling requirements. State agencies also would not be allowed to impose regulations stricter than what the federal government allows. It next goes to the state Senate.

"What's getting clobbered here is the consumer's right to know," Richard North, an opponent of transgenic foods, told the Portland Oregonian. "That's what we're trying to protect."

Meanwhile, the Texas House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on Rep. Lon Burnam's HB 3387 last week. The bill would prohibit the use of food crops for the genetic engineering of drugs, industrial chemicals or other non-food materials.

Although the hearing went well, according to Reggie James of Consumers Union, "the bill was left pending...which means it will probably die there."

The corn, hog, dairy, and biotechnology industry opposed the bill, while a Frito-Lay executive and the National Food Processors suported it.

To contact members of the House Agriculture Committee, go to: http://www.house.state.tx.us/committees/020.htm

To view the hearing online, go to: http://www.house.state.tx.us/committees/broadcasts.php?cmte=020&session=78. Click Agriculture and Livestock committee April 10th 1:30 - 4:00 and scroll the fast forward bar a little past the middle, the bill number is HB 3387.

What follows is an article in The San Antonio Express & News

Altered animals, crops eyed in ban
By Elizabeth Allen
Express-News Business Writer
Web Posted : 04/11/2003 12:00 AM

The Texas House of Representatives' Agriculture Committee is considering a bill that would ban from the state genetically engineered animals and food crops that would produce drugs.

Livestock and food crops such as corn shouldn't be genetically tinkered to produce drugs, industrial chemicals and other nonfood items, and they should not be allowed in Texas, according to the bill sponsored by Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth.

"Our position is not if there's a mistake, it's when," said Colin Leyden, Burnam's legislative aide. "We just need to not use food crops for these kinds of experiments."

The bill does not address other types of engineered crops such as the commonly used Bt cottons and Roundup-ready corn that have pesticides inserted in their genes.

There already have been problems with drugs inserted in food crops, noted bill supporter Reggie James of Consumers Union. Half a million bushels of Nebraska soybeans were destroyed last year after they were contaminated by pharmaceutical corn developed by Texas company Prodigene.

The company also was fined for an Iowa incident in which pharmaceutical corn was planted adjacent to a regular corn crop, causing possible cross-pollination.

Groups such as the National Academy of Sciences and the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology have said regulation of genetically engineered crops is inadequate.

"People don't really know what's going on, and government's not adequately protecting them," James said.

Another supporter, Frito-Lay executive Bob Drotman, who's also chairman of the National Food Processors Association regulatory council, told committee members such mistakes have cost the food industry hundreds of millions of dollars.

Starlink corn, which is not approved for human consumption, got into the processed food supply almost three years ago and caused more than 600 product recalls, Drotman said.

But several groups - including Texas Farm Bureau, a number of farmers and representatives of the biotech industry - opposed Burnam's bill.

"They've got the farmers all believing that they're going to get rich if they produce these things," James said. "If they accidentally enter the food supply, we're going to have children getting bags of chips with insulin in them. It's ludicrous."