Sub kills bills on fluoride in water, genetically modified food

In its final meeting, the House Agriculture Subcommittee killed bills to put new restrictions on fluoride in drinking water and to require labeling of food from genetically modified plants.

The fluoride bill would impose new requirements on water systems for reporting the amount of fluoride they add to water to officials — or that naturally occurs — and providing notice to consumers. The bill specifies that the notice include a warning that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that children aged birth through eight (8) years are at risk of developing dental fluorosis by consuming fluoride during the time when teeth are forming under their gums.”

Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Old Hickory, sponsor of HB949, said it would simply mean “informed consent” for consumers and “all we’re asking for is disclosure.”

But critics said the measure would discourage use of fluoride, which has proven benefits, and the language used in the legislation makes inaccurate statements. TennCare officials, the panel was told, suggest the “overregulation” of fluoride would prompt many water systems to discontinue use, leading to a 16 percent increase in tooth decay that would cost TennCare’s dental program $24 million.

The measure was killed on voice vote with no member recorded as supporting it — though Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, voiced some support during the brief debate.

Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, brought two bills before the subcommittee dealing with labeling of products.

HB1217 would require that plants and seeds sold in Tennessee be labeled to indicate open pollination, genetic modification, and hybridization.

HB1218, entitled the “Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act,” would require foods from genetically modified plants be labeled as such.

“We just want people to know what we’re putting in our bodies,” Towns said. “That’s all this is.”

But Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, said such legislation is “unfounded and baseless” and told Towns “you’ve eaten this (genetically modified food) every day of your life for the last eight or 10 years.”

Vermont enacted similar legislation, Holt said, costing “millions” to be spent unnecessarily.

The first bill failed when Towns could not get the necessary seconding motion for passage from a subcommittee member. The second got a seconding motion, then was killed on voice vote.

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