GMO Laws

Citizens Count Editor

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, bioengineered (genetically modified or “GMO”) foods contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through certain lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature. 

For more than thirty years, genetic modification has been used to make crops that are resistant to weed killers, more aesthetically pleasing, or have other desirable traits.  

State and Federal GMO laws 

In 1992, the FDA declared that genetically modified foods are not inherently dangerous and didn’t require special regulation.  

In 2014, Vermont became the first state to pass a law requiring foods that contain GMOs be labeled. However, before Vermont’s law was implemented, Congress passed a law called the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard that mandates nationwide GMO labeling based on USDA guidelines. This rendered any state-level label laws moot.  

At the end of 2018, the USDA announced the long-awaited disclosure guidelines called for in the NBFDS. It will be mandatory for major US food makers to implement the new regulations by the start of 2021. Small food manufacturers will have an extra year to prepare.  

The Agricultural Marketing Service has developed a list of foods available in bioengineered forms for which regulated businesses must maintain records. Records may include information about the supply chain and organic certification, for example. 

Once the new federal law is fully implemented, retail food products with bioengineered ingredients will be disclosed as such – often with a circular “bioengineered” label – on the package. Companies can begin implementing these new regulations voluntarily before 2020.  

Very small food manufacturers (<$2,500,000 annual receipts), as well as restaurants and bars, won't be required to disclose bioengineered ingredients. 

Learn more about how this new federal law will impact consumers 

NH GMO regulations 

In the last several years, the New Hampshire House has voted down two bills that would have required labels on genetically engineered foods: HB 1674 (2016) and HB 660 (2014). Since then, the federal government has taken over the authority to issue mandatory GMO labeling standards.  

GMO databases 

In 2011, there was a failed attempt in the state Legislature to establish a database of New Hampshire-grown genetically modified crops. The database would have listed the location of the crops, the company that produced the genetically engineered seeds, and the name of the person responsible for the crops.   

GMO litigation laws 

GMO crops have sparked debate about questions of liability in several states, including New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Legislature considered, but ultimately rejected, a bill that would have granted famers legal standing to sue if their crops were damaged as a result of cross-contamination with GMO plants. 

Other states have considered bills that would grant farmers more protection if they are accused of using GMO seeds without entering into an agreement or paying fees to their manufacturer. These bills were intended to prevent farmers from being sued by GMO manufacturers simply because some genetically engineered seeds drifted into their fields from a neighboring farm.  

Banning some GMO foods   

There have been a handful attempts at the state level to regulate specific GMO foods. For example, in Alaska, proposed legislation would have banned the sale of genetically modified fish, while a bill in New York would have banned the use of GMOs in vaccines. There has been no legislation in New Hampshire to prohibit particular GMO foods.  


"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

“New Hampshire should more strictly regulate GMO foods.” 

  • Consumers should feel confident that any food purchased lawfully in New Hampshire is entirely safe. While studies so far suggest that GMO foods are not dangerous to human health, proponents of GMO regulation argue that it is still too early to know the long term consequences of consuming genetically modified food. 
  • Proponents of state labeling laws say the federal law should be scrapped because states have the right to decide where they stand on GMO disclosure. 
  • A GMO database would empower New Hampshire citizens to know what genetically modified crops are being grown in their state. 
  • Farmers should be able to take legal action if their crops are damaged by being mixed with GMO seeds, and should be protected from lawsuits if GMO crops drift onto their fields. 

"Against" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

“New Hampshire should not more strictly regulate GMO foods.” 

  • The FDA, the National Academy of Sciences, and other organizations have concluded that GMO foods are safe for human consumption and therefore GMO regulations would constitute needless red tape. 
  • GMOs allow farmers to produce more food with less waste. Strictly regulating GMO food would instill baseless fear in the public over what is ultimately a widely-beneficial scientific breakthrough. 
  • Returning the authority to label GMO foods to the states would lead to a confusing patchwork of state laws and make selling foods with GMO ingredients nearly impossible for national brands. 
  • A GMO database would merely sow undue fear among consumers, suggesting that genetically engineered crops are dangerous when they are not. 


Killed in the House

Requires GMO labeling.

Killed in the House

Requires GMO labeling.

Should New Hampshire more strictly regulate genetically modified foods?


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Issue Status

The USDA has released its new rules for labeling GMO foods. 

Meanwhile in NH, no effort to change GMO regulation is currently underway. 


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