Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement Could Undermine GMO Labeling

MA Right to Know GMOs joined with Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance and seventy other consumer, farm and food groups, and businesses on a letter urging the Obama Administration not to restrict efforts to label genetically engineered foods in the ongoing and secret U.S.-EU trade talks.

Click here to read that letter.

Read more about our shared concerns is this great write-up from the Farm and Ranch Freedom Allance (FARFA):

Through negotiations on the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) with the European Union, the U.S. Trade Representative seeks to establish common regulations covering consumer protections, and has targeted the European Union’s regulations of genetically engineered foods, which includes consumer labeling. U.S. and EU agribusiness firms have been open about their desire to eliminate GMO labeling laws under TAFTA—including the rising number of U.S. states moving to require GMO labeling.

FARFA and the other groups object to the U.S. trade negotiators placing the interests of agribusiness over the interests of consumers, and creating “rights” for corporations that would trump democratically enacted laws.

The groups expressed concerns that a TAFTA chapter called “technical barriers to trade” would limit governments’ ability to maintain or establish product labels for consumers. This year, Vermont was the first state to pass required GMO labeling without any restrictions. Maine and Connecticut passed GMO labeling laws last year contingent on neighboring states also passing GMO labeling laws. More than 20 states are also considering laws, including major GMO labeling initiatives on the ballot in Colorado and Oregon this fall.

The push to “harmonize” standards in TAFTA would effectively undermine these grassroots, citizen-led efforts.

The Obama Administration has prioritized corporate rights within the negotiations, including the highly controversial Investor-State provision, which grants corporations the right to use secret tribunals to challenge state, local or national laws they view as potentially limiting to expected future profits. Past investor-state cases have targeted regulations on toxic waste, land use rules and water and timber policies. The Grocery Manufacturers Association is already suing the state of Vermont under U.S. law to challenge GMO labeling. TAFTA rules would provide the GMA with another legal tool to attack U.S. laws.

The negotiating text for TAFTA remains secret, with only parts of drafts being leaked to the public. The groups called on the U.S. and EU to make the negotiating text public—and pledged to oppose any deal that undermines consumer’s right to know what is in the food they purchase and feed their families.

 

Elections 2014: Candidates in support of #GMO labeling win at the ballot

With the help of more than 5000 members and dozens of local leaders across the state, MA Right to Know GMOs has continued to raise the visibility of the GMO labeling issue. During the the run-up to the 2014 elections, nearly half of the candidates for contested seats in the Massachusetts State Legislature expressed their support for our right to know what we’re eating. At the end of the day, 73% of the victorious candidates had endorsed mandatory GMO labeling in Massachusetts. (full list below. Note: two seats are still being recounted.).

THANK YOU to everyone who contacted the candidates, posted on social media, volunteered with the campaigns of our supporters, and most importantly: voted! Thanks to you, we successfully made GMO labeling a campaign issue, and now we can continue to build momentum for the coming session.

Re: social media, take a look at the below collection of twitter posts made by candidates in support of GMO labeling!

During the previous legislative session (2013-14), we built a serious buzz about GMO labeling in the State House. Together, we generated more than 40,000 petition signatures, emails and phone calls demanding transparency in food labeling. While the Massachusetts GMO labeling bill gained a majority of support (146/200 legislators) in 2014, our representatives didn’t vote on it before the session ended on July 31st.

We’re going to be picking up with even greater momentum with the new legislative session begins in January. Even though we lost some supporters to retirement and a couple were defeated, we’ll be starting the new year with the same level of support, thanks to the following newcomers. We are eager to meet our newest allies in the State House!

Here’s a list of the incoming legislators who have already endorsed GMO labeling:

Michelle DuBois (D), Representative-Elect, 10th Plymouth

Eric Lesser (D), Senator-Elect, 1st Hampden & Hampshire District

Joseph McKenna (R), Representative-Elect, 18th Worcester

Rady Mom (D), Representative-Elect, 11th Middlesex

David Muradian (R), Representative-Elect, 9th Worcester

Steven Ultrino (D), Representative-Elect, 33rd Middlesex

Timothy Whelan (R), Representative-Elect, 1st Barnstable

Note: A recount is being sought for the 1st District seat, which might end up being won by another GMO labeling supporter, Ed Cameron. Another supporter, Rep. Rhonda Nyman, is also awaiting a recount (TBD by December 5th).

Below is a listing of all the candidates, who supported GMO labeling, and who won.

 

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9/11/14: USDA to host “Virtual Public Comment Meeting” on Monsanto dicamba-resistant GMOs. What are the real risks?

The glyphosate (RoundUp) herbicide has been so overused that it’s not working well anymore. Dicamba would be the next step on the chemical treadmill, keeping our farmers dependent on hazardous, fossil-fuel-based chemicals. If approved, millions more pounds of this chemical will be sprayed, polluting our food, water, and air and threatening the livelihood of some farmers.

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The USDA is accepting public comments until Sept. 25 and hosting a “Virtual Public Comment Meeting” on Sept. 11 th from 5-8 pm EDT. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/APHISVirtualMeetings/

What are the risks?

An assessment from Ohio State University highlights the following concerns (full report, here http://bit.ly/VQBJOG):

*”huge concern” from specialty crop farmers that spray drift from increasing applications of dicambia and roundup will make it impossible to grow their highly sensitive fruits, vegetables and ornamentals

*concerns over increased licensing fees and other increased expenses

*consumer and environmental health and rural community well-being concerns

*growing awareness and resistance to GMOs, impacts on manufacturers products (!)

*increased use of herbicides

As the Center for Food Safety highlights in the above petition:

“Penn State ecologist David Mortensen predicts that herbicide use on soy could increase 70% if the new 2,4-D and dicamba-tolerant soybeans are adopted. Inevitably new ‘superweeds’ will develop in response to the new biotech crops, and the chemical arms race with weeds will continue. This means more pesticidal pollution, environmental damage, higher production costs, and of course, increasing profits for firms like Monsanto that sell both GE seed and pesticides.”

Sign the petition: http://bit.ly/1qh2kPR
Attend the virtual meeting Sept 11th, 5-8 PM EDT
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/APHISVirtualMeetings/

The Fight Continues to Label GMOs

Boston, MA –  Today, the statewide coalition of advocates in support of labeling foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) announced that it will redouble its efforts to pass GMO labeling legislation in the next session.

“It’s disappointing that, despite overwhelming public support and a majority of supportive legislators in both the House and Senate, GMO labeling did not come up for a vote this session,” said Martin Dagoberto, campaign coordinator for MA Right to Know GMOs. “We are undeterred in our commitment to get GMO labeling legislation passed. People want to know what’s in the food they eat and we won’t stop fighting until a label is on the side of every food item containing genetically engineered ingredients.”

Over the last year, GMO labeling has garnered unprecedented support. While GMO labeling bills have been filed since 2007, this year, for the first time, the bill was passed out of its original committee. Since the coalition started organizing in April 2013, there has been a 630-percent increase in legislative support (from 20 legislators when the bills were filed in 2013 to 146 currently). Today, a significant majority in both the House and Senate support GMO labeling.

“We got closer this year than we have before,” said Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst). “I am looking forward to success next session!”

“The GMO labeling initiative has a strong coalition of support in both the legislature and across the Commonwealth,” said Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren). “I will continue to be a strong voice in support of GMO labeling and will do everything in my power to get GMO labeling legislation passed in Massachusetts.”

“I am disappointed that this bill, which enjoys the support of a majority of senators and representatives and many of our constituents, was unable to make it to final passage,” said Senator Richard T. Moore (D-Uxbridge). “The bill simply lets consumers know if their food has been genetically modified and they can then decide on their purchase as better-informed customers. I don’t understand why anyone would want hide this information. If I am re-elected, I will keep pushing for this common sense legislation.”

Awareness of GMO labeling has taken off across Massachusetts, as more than 300 organizations and local businesses, including 150 local farms, joined the coalition’s network, generating nearly 40,000 petition signatures and comments to elected officials in support of this commonsense legislation.

“Over the last year, GMO labeling has become a kitchen table issue,” said Pat Fiero, former state representative and current New England organizer for MoveOn.org. “We’ve heard from tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents who support GMO labeling and the more people we talk with, the more support we get. We will continue to spread the word until GMO labeling legislation is passed in Massachusetts.”

“Unfortunately, it was the chemical companies and junk food industry that lobbied to keep consumers in the dark, a classic corporate interest vs public interest battle,” said Deirdre Cummings, legislative director for MASSPIRG. “But with momentum, overwhelming support, and common sense on our side it won’t be long before the public interest beats out Monsanto’s interests. I know our coalition will continue to fight for GMO labeling, allowing consumers – not certain companies – the right to know and choose what they are eating.”

For more information visit www.marighttoknow.com.

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Rolling Reminder to Label GMOs: Inside the State House

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Curious what’s happening with the Massachusetts GMO labeling bill? Let’s go find out! Join us in the State House starting TOMORROW.

Only 3 days remain of the formal session (ends midnight July 31st). With 146 of 195 legislators voicing their support for this commonsense legislation, we too are surprised it hasn’t yet come up for a vote. We’re thinking they need a reminder of what’s left to do this session…

 

Join us at the State House, starting Tuesday, July 29th at 11:00 AM.

We will visit offices, sit in the gallery, walk through the halls and be seen.

We will cheer on our legislative leaders and be there to see if anyone would deny our right to know what we’re eating.

 

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What: Rolling Reminder to label GMOs

Where: MA State House (meeting outside the House Chamber)

When: 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Tuesday-Thursday, 7/29-7/31/2014*

(And probably into the evening, depending the changing schedule)

**Come for a few minutes or a few hours!!**

 

RSVP and share the facebook event:

https://www.facebook.com/events/527860700646910/

Please email labelGMOsMA@gmail.com if you can attend to receive instructions.

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UPDATES:

Here’s a map of where we’ll be meeting on the 3rd Floor (this is outside the main entrance to the House Chamber. Look for people with green buttons (you’ll get one, too!)

Tuesday report-back:

We had a great crew of people today. Thanks to everyone who made it! Several legislators came out to thank us for being there and to exchange words of encouragement. Anything could happen over the next 2 days, and it definitely makes a difference to be there. We’ll be back on the 3rd floor outside the House Chamber at 11 am, hope you can join us!

 

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MA GMO labeling bill stuck in committee– Help bring it up for a vote

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Our GMO labeling bill could come up for a vote on the House floor any day now. Unfortunately, with only a week left to this legislative session, it’s apparently stuck in committee with dozens of other bills. We need your help to make GMO labeling a top priority.

 

Representative Dempsey (D-Haverhill) is the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. We already have a broad majority of support on the committee, as well as in both the House and the Senate. But whether or not it can come up for a vote is now up to him. We know he has a lot on his plate. Let’s make sure that our GMO labelling bill moves to the top of the pile.

 

We need him to hear from his fellow legislators and his constituents.

Please recognize that calls from non-constituents outside Rep. Dempsey’s district won’t be helpful [and might even backfire].

 

If your representative is one of 119 who have signed on to the campaign, we need you to ask them to contact Chairman Dempsey to move the bill. (If you’ve called recently, maybe you can get a friend or family member to call, too!)

 

Look up your State Representative, here:

http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

(phone calls and personalized emails are preferred).

See if they’re a listed supporter, here: marighttoknow.org/endorsements

(Or click here to send them a message within seconds: http://bit.ly/1mHM8IB)

 

You can say something like:

“As your constituent, I’d like to thank you for supporting my right to know what I’m eating. Please contact Chairman Dempsey to encourage House Ways and Means to move the GMO labeling bill H.3996 this session. We don’t have time to wait.”

 

If your representative is not yet listed as a supporter, then you should focus on letting them know why this is important to you.

 

If you happen to know anyone in Haverhill, please encourage THEM to call the Chairman’s office.

 

A lot can happen in the final days of the legislative session. Massachusetts now has an opportunity to join a regional tipping point toward a more democratic food system. Will you take action to make it happen?

 

Thanks for your continued efforts!

 

The MA Right to Know GMOs team

 

Please visit MArighttoknow.org for full details.

3 weeks for Mass to Pass GMO labeling; Let’s do it!

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With incredible grassroots momentum across Massachusetts, food transparency advocates are moving to pass GMO labeling. A broad majority of state legislators (144/195) have responded to constituent demand for this important piece of information and have voiced their support for our need to know. But if a GMO labeling bill is to be voted upon this year, we need those 144 supporters to help make it a priority.

This 2-year legislative cycle ends July 31st. After that, it starts all over again next year.

This is what democracy looks like.
This is how you can help:

We need you to call/email your state legislators’ offices (again).
We need you to thank them*.
We need you to ask them to do everything in their power to help make GMO labeling a priority.

“As your constituent, I’d like to thank you for supporting my right to know what I’m eating. I hope that you will do everything in your power to encourage the legislature to vote on GMO labeling this session. We don’t have time to wait.”

With 30 new GMO crops coming down the pipeline, including coffee, apples, and salmon, and with the chemical manufacturers making moves to outlaw mandatory GMO labeling at the federal level, the people of Massachusetts can’t wait another couple years to pass this commonsense legislation.

Look up your State Representative and Senator, here:
http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/
(phone calls and personalized emails are preferred).
See if they’re a listed supporter, here: marighttoknow.org/endorsements

(Or click here to send them a message within seconds: http://bit.ly/1mHM8IB)

*If your legislator is not yet a listed supporter, you can thank them for listening and encourage them to sign on.

The governments of Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, and 64 other countries all want their people to know what they’re eating. Help Massachusetts join this local/global tipping point toward a more democratic food system.

Visit marighttoknow.org and follow us on facebook/twitter for more information.

Other ways to help:
Print out our poster and put it up at your local library, school, food co-op or coffee shop.
marighttoknow.com/spread-the-word

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Help spread the word and grow the movement.
Together, we’re taking back our food.

Thank you for your help.

With hope for a more democratic food system,

The MA Right to Know GMOs team

Critical Mass for GMO Labeling

We are lucky to have so many elected officials who support our NEED to know if our food is GMO. Thanks to your help, 119 of 160 representatives (indicated in green) are now on board in support. With less than 6 weeks to pass bill H.3996, we need their leadership to bring it up for a vote!

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Use the interactive map of support: http://bit.ly/1orKVpy

And look up the contact info for your State Rep (follow the profile link).
Call or email their office to say:

“Thank you for leading on GMO labeling! Please contact the chairman of the House Ways & Means committee and encourage him to move H.3996 out of committee so we can pass GMO labeling this session!”

Of course, if your Rep. is not yet on board, politely inform them why this is so important to you!

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See the full list of supporters, along with links to their facebook and twitter pages, here: http://marighttoknow.org/endorsements

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With 30 new GMO crops coming down the pipeline, including coffee and apples, and with the chemical manufacturers making moves to outlaw GMO labeling (really), we can’t wait another couple years to pass GMO labeling. The chemical manufacturers and junk food companies have already spent more than $70 Million to combat grassroots GMO labeling initiatives. But we are a people-powered movement, and everyone has a right to know if we’re eating GMOs!

 

Want to do more to help pass GMO labeling? We need your help!
Please sign and share the petition with your networks: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/massachusetts-label-gmos

Write a short letter to your local newspaper (Reps often read them!)

We have an online form that will help you do it in minutes: http://marighttoknow.org/write-a-letter-to-the-editor/

 

Study of labeling costs ripped by lawmaker as “scare tactics”

By Colleen Quinn
Published June 17, 2014, 7:34 pm

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 17, 2014….A recently released study pointing to increased food prices if manufacturers are forced to label genetically modified ingredients in food products has invigorated one lawmaker behind the push for so-called GMO labels to get legislation passed.

The study, conducted by a professor from Cornell University and funded by the Council for Biotechnology Information, found that food costs for a family of four in the Northeast region could increase anywhere between $224 to $800 annually, with the average falling at $500.

The study, written by professor William Lesser, attributes higher food costs to increased labeling costs, warehousing additional items, and any costs supermarkets incur for stocking and tracking newly-labeled products. Lesser said the lower cost estimate is calculated if manufacturers label existing products containing GMOs, and the highest number incorporates possible changes in products to use only all organic ingredients.

There are a number of different ways the food industry could respond to labeling mandates, according to Lesser. “The way the industry responds is going to have a direct affect on the costs,” Lesser told the News Service in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Rep. Ellen Story, an Amherst Democrat who sponsored legislation requiring GMO food labels in Massachusetts, called the study biased, citing its funding source. The study specifically stated it did not take a position on whether or not foods should be labeled.

“My immediate reaction is this sounds like scare tactics,” Story told the News Service Tuesday.

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Story said the research is based on a false assumption that manufacturers will try to reformulate their products using non-genetically modified ingredients to avoid the labels that some manufacturers fear will cause consumers not to buy a product.

“That’s absurd. They are not going to do that. What are they going to do, not use corn syrup? Corn syrup is in everything,” she said. “It is clearly a biased study.”

Lesser dismissed the bias accusation. “What I did was be absolutely transparent about what I did. We were right upfront about who it was funded by…the data sources were all laid out,” he said.

A majority of House and Senate members have pledged support for legislation requiring labels for foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. The bill has not surfaced for a vote in either the House or Senate with only 44 days remaining for controversial legislation to be considered in formal sessions.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts are being pushed from both sides as proponents of labeling say consumers have a right to know what they are eating, while the food industry argues it is an unnecessary move and should only be dealt with at the federal level so the industry can work within a consistent policy.

While 60 countries require labels, food manufacturers in the United States are not required to label genetically modified foods. Voluntary labeling is an option. Retailers argue that food manufacturers will find it difficult to tailor labels for each state.

“Labeling though has real costs attributable to more expensive ingredients and the process of maintaining product identity and the labeling process itself, among others,” the study states.

Vermont recently passed legislation requiring GMO labels, prompting the Grocery Manufacturers Association to file suit in U.S. District Court in Vermont.

Maine and Connecticut also enacted labeling laws for engineered food, but those laws won’t go into effect until other states in the region do the same. New York is also contemplating legislation. The study conducted by the Cornell professor estimated the costs to consumers in the Northeast if labeling of genetically modified foods was mandated. The study region included 11 states, and Washington D.C., with a combined total population of 63.5 million in 2013.

Genetically engineered seeds were first introduced in the early 1990s for numerous reasons, including the ability to resist insects or herbicides. While there is little science around the safety of engineered seeds, the Food and Drug Administration has not found them to be unsafe, both sides of the issue agree. Scientists fall in both camps, with some dismissing concerns over GMOs and others saying they are too new to understand the biological effects.

Groups opposing the mandatory labeling legislation here include the Massachusetts Food Association, Retailers Association of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance, Grocery Manufacturers Association of America, and Biotechnology Industry Organization, and the Massachusetts Association of Dairy Farmers.

“The dairy farming industry is a major component of local food production in Massachusetts; we oppose this mandatory and costly labeling bill because it would create disparity between states in which we sell our products,” Dave Shepard, president of the Massachusetts Association of Dairy Farmers, said in a statement announcing the study.

The study said experiences with GMO labels in Europe show many shoppers will avoid genetically modified foods or pay less for foods with genetically modified ingredients.

“Finally it should be emphasized that the figures presented here are estimates as no one knows how consumers, and the food industry, will react if labeling is mandated,” the study stated.

(read the rest of the article, here: http://wwlp.com/2014/06/17/study-of-labeling-costs-ripped-by-lawmaker-as-scare-tactics/ )