Chris Tallman’s Testimony on Colorado HB 1192 “Concerning Labeling Requirements for Genetically Engineered Food”
Former CAWG President Chris Tallman, who is also chairman of the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Joint Biotechnology Committee, and a National Spokesperson for Biotechnology in Wheat testified this afternoon at a committee hearing of the House Health, Insurance and Environmental committee, in opposition to HB 1192 “Concerning Labeling Requirements for Genetically Engineered Food.” Good afternoon, Madam Chair and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to be here today. My name is Chris Tallman. I am a former president of the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers. I currently serve as the chairman of the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Joint Biotechnology Committee, and for the past three years I have been a National Spokesperson for Biotechnology in Wheat. But most importantly, I am here as a fourth generation family farmer from Brandon, Colorado. I am here to speak in opposition of House Bill 1192. GMO crops are widely grown and consumed around the world. In recent years we have seen the use of this technology in everything from corn and canola, to papayas and apples. Many of these crops are being produced almost exclusively as GMOs and in some cases, that’s the only way that they CAN be produced. Technology providers are also currently bioengineering wheat, bananas, citrus, and many other crops. Having said that, what this bill is really about is labeling of foods containing biotech ingredients that are compositionally the same as foods that include conventionally grown ingredients. The US Food and Drug Administration has consistently said that there is no significant difference between foods produced using bio-engineering and their conventional counterparts. President Obama's Agriculture Secretary last month said he knows of no health reasons for foods containing genetically modified ingredients to carry special labels. While farmers, who today, use bioengineered seeds will be faced with challenges should this bill become law, the real impact will be felt by consumers at the checkout counter. What we know is that to comply with this law, there will be increased costs to food manufacturers and grocers. Those costs are sure to be passed on to consumers. California voters last fall rejected a very similar proposal that this bill follows. One study that was done to analyze the cost implications to California consumers had Prop 37 passed, suggested that the cost to consumers to cover the costs of replacing genetically engineered ingredients in their food could range from $350 to $400 per household, implying that the average households' food and beverage spending would have to rise 2.7 to 3.1 percent. The study's authors said that the assumptions used to develop these estimates likely lead to conservatively low compliance cost figures. Meaning the real cost could be higher than $350 - $400 per household per year. Labeling of GMO foods to fulfill the desires of a few consumers would impose a big cost on all consumers. This same study suggested that the overall state-wide compliance costs of Prop 37 could range from $4.5 billion to $5.2 billion. House Bill 1192, however, leaves the question of compliance unanswered. Is the burden on the producer who grows a crop using biotechnology? Is the burden on the manufacturer? Or is the burden on the retailer to demonstrate or certify that the food product doesn't contain bioengineered ingredients? Maybe the burden lies up and down the entire food production chain. Further, if this and/or similar measures are passed across the country we would no longer have a uniform system of food labeling in this country. Each state would likely have very different policies. CAWG opposes a state-by-state approach to food labeling. We support the FDA, USDA, and EPA's current policies regarding GMO crops and food products. These agencies have billions of dollars at their disposal and have studied GMOs for years - this is time and resources that we as a state don't have and can't afford. Farmers around the world have embraced GMO technology. This is truly some of the most tested and examined technology ever released. We plant GMOs for many reasons. They help us to remain profitable, they allow us more flexibility in our crop rotation, and they help us protect our environment. But more importantly, they help us provide a reliable, consistent, and safe food source not only for our country, but for many countries around the world that depend on America's farmers for their next meal. Please vote no on House Bill 1192. I'm happy to answer any questions the Committee may have. Thank you.