CONCORD, N.H. — A fight over whether to require genetically modified foods to be labeled in New Hampshire is coming before the House in January.

Supporters argue New Hampshire residents have a right to know whether their food is produced with genetic engineering, but critics say the federal Food and Drug Administration has not mandated the labeling because it determined the foods are safe.

The House Environment and Agriculture Committee split in its recommendation on the bill with a majority favoring killing it. But a minority is arguing it’s time for states like New Hampshire to lead regardless of the federal position on the issue.

“While we have concerns about the lack of safety and health testing by parties independent of the bio-tech industry, we are not opposed to the use of (genetic engineering) technology per se. We simply feel that people should have the freedom to make their own choices about food, and since knowledge is essential to the proper exercise of that freedom, information about genetically engineered content should be available on food labels,” state Rep. Peter Bixby wrote the House.

But state Rep. Robert Haefner countered in his message to the House on the bill that a label would “in effect serve as a skull and crossbones, suggesting to the consumer that there is something dangerous in the product when in fact science has shown there is not.” He said the bill would be difficult and expensive for the state to enforce.

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