Weeks before a legislative deadline, advocates mobilize to support proposed state GMO labeling bills
Jamaica Plain (February 16, 2014) - More than sixty local residents gathered with state GMO labeling campaign advocates on Sunday night at Spontaneous Celebrations in JP to share concerns over genetically engineered foods and to discuss the need for mandatory GMO labeling. GMO labeling has become a hot-button issue across the nation in recent months, with more than half of the states considering labeling legislation, including Massachusetts. Local community groups hosted a film screening and discussion on GMOs and are encouraging legislators to take action on a proposed law before a March 19th committee deadline.
“We have a right to know what we’re feeding our families, and what we’re supporting with our food purchases. People need to know that there are serious health risks associated with GMO foods,” says Martin Dagoberto, an advocate with the group called Massachusetts Right to Know GMOs. “People across the state are calling for GMOs to be labeled, and right now our elected officials have the opportunity to show us they’re listening,” Dagoberto added.
Massachusetts lawmakers have introduced several bills related to GMO labeling, but as the legislative deadline approaches, advocates are concerned that the state will miss an opportunity to be part of a national legislative movement. In 2013, Connecticut and Maine both passed GMO labeling laws that rely on neighboring states to enact similar laws before they go into effect. Vermont’s house passed a GMO labeling bill by a lopsided margin, and their senate is expected to vote soon. Organizers of the labeling efforts say that state-level action is setting the standard for meaningful GMO labeling and will force the federal government to take action as it did with other historic laws like women’s right to vote.
“It’s a sad state of affairs when GMOs are seen as the norm and we have to label organic,” says Op, a Roxbury resident who attended the event with his family. “Not everyone has access to organic food, but a GMO label will help everyone know what’s in their food and decide what they’re going to give their kids,” he added, “it helps get the conversation going about how food is medicine, and how food is related to sickness.”
The event featured the award-winning documentary “Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of our Lives,” produced by the Institute for Responsible Technology, after which attendees discussed what they can do to take action to support mandatory GMO labeling efforts and avoid GMOs in their diet. Attendees shared educational resources and made plans to contact their local elected officials ahead of the approaching March 19th legislative deadline.
Standing room only at Spontaneous Celebrations in JP for a community mobilization gathering to #LabelGMOs. (Photo: C. Stockman)
Opponents of GMO labeling include the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), an industry group currently under investigation by the Washington State Attorney General’s office for violating campaign finance laws during the recent ballot initiative on GMO labeling. The organization maintains that GMOs have been proven safe, and that consumers don’t need to know if they’re eating genetically engineered foods.
Delphine, a JP resident who attended the event, says she suffered from a digestive disorder called “leaky gut syndrome” until after she eliminated GMO soy from her diet. “It takes a lot of time figuring out if you’re eating genetically engineered foods, but with GMO labeling people will be better able to make informed choices about what they’re eating, ” she said.
Nearly 300 food scientists and experts, including a developer of the first commercial GMO crop, have signed on to a recent international statement citing serious safety concerns with GMO foods. “While the science is still out on whether or not they’re safe, people want to opt out of the GMO food experiment,” Dagoberto added, “Whether or not our local elected officials will hear our voices and take some initiative to pass GMO labeling, is yet to be seen.”
Community members were joined by advocates from groups pushing for GMO labeling, including Jack Kittredge, Policy Director at the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (MA) and Ed Stockman, 4th generation organic farmer, biologist, and co-founder of MA Right to Know GMOs. Local organic food delivery companies, Boston Organics, and Life Force Juice sponsored the event, along with local organizations including JP New Economy Transition and the Jamaica Plain Forum.
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