State Rep. Dennis Canario has become a leader in the Rhode Island General Assembly on the push to have food producers clearly label foods that use GMO ingredients.

A little knowledge can’t hurt, state Rep. Dennis Canario said.

At Tom's Market in Tiverton, store manager Mike Mistretta shows a package of organic chicken labeled as non-GMO.

He is not sure if the same can be said about genetically modified food.

For that reason, Canario, D-Tiverton and Portsmouth, has become a leader in the Rhode Island General Assembly on the push to have food producers clearly label packages that include corn, soy, wheat or canola that comes from genetically modified plants.

“We are getting there,” Canario said. “It seems reasonable to give people a little more information about the food they are eating.

“My bill is in committee. We are hoping to get it out of committee and to the floor for a vote.”
The bill has dozens of co-sponsors. A mirror bill is making its way through the state Senate, pushed by Sen. Donna Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket.

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, refer to plants or animals that are the product of genetic alteration to make them more resistant to viruses, bacteria or insects.

GMO food has been criticized as experimental and not adequately tested for safety. Groups have risen around the country to push for a ban on GMO food or legislation to label it. A march to support legislative efforts has been set for May 23, organizers say.

On the other hand, an estimated 80 percent of the food we eat already contains genetically modified ingredients.

Maine, Connecticut and Vermont have passed legislation requiring the labeling of genetically modified food. But the bills in both Maine and Connecticut require that the labeling be mandated in at least five nearby states before the bill becomes law.

Legislation to require GMO labeling has been introduced in 30 states around the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many contain language — similar to the Maine and Connecticut bills — that the regulation will become law only when four other nearby states pass similar laws.


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