Corporate “personhood” and GMO Labeling

PMA_hearing

The following was submitted as testimony on behalf of MA Right to Know GMOs, in support of H933 – “Proposal for a legislative amendment to the Constitution to declare that corporations are not people, money is not speech”

More and more people (human beings) are increasingly concerned that through the invented powers of corporate “personhood” and “free speech,” certain financial interests have secured undue influence over our lives. A small number of people and corporate “people” are now able to buy the loudest voices heard in our federal government, including the regulation of food safety and food labeling.

Massachusetts Right to Know GMOs is a statewide network of more than 20,000 parents, farmers and consumer advocates demanding mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food ingredients, a measure supported by more than ¾ of the Massachusetts legislature. However, the world’s largest chemical companies have built a business model which relies on the public (and public health officials) not knowing if/when GMOs are consumed. The chemical companies maintain that it is their constitutional right, as corporations, not to tell us if we’re eating ingredients produced through genetic engineering. According to Reuters, opponents of mandatory GMO labeling spent more than $27 Million lobbying against labeling transparency in the first half of 2014. One can safely assume that significant amounts are being spent to influence regulation in other ways.

Our democratic process has been compromised by the unmitigated infiltration of corporate dollars. The lack of GMO labeling is but one pressing example. We, at MA Right to Know, applaud the leadership of Representative David Rogers, Representative Paul Mark and the other Massachusetts legislators protecting the integrity of our democratic process.

H933, to amend the constitution of Massachusetts, is one important step in the right direction.

Let us, as a Commonwealth, make it clear: “Corporations are not people. Money is not speech.”

For more info about this important campaign, please visit the website of our allies at www.PassMassAmendment.org

GMO Herbicide a “Probable Carcinogen,” WHO says

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently determined that the herbicide most commonly used on GMO crops is a probable human carcinogen.

Herbicide-resistant (GMO) crop technology has led to a 527 million pound increase in herbicide use in the United States between 1996 and 2011.

Subsequently, the EPA has repeatedly increased “tolerable” limits for glyphosate residues in food. The compound has been found in rainwater and human breast milk.

The New York Times Reports:

Health Agency Says Widely Used Herbicide Likely Carcinogenic

Herbicide, glyphosate, is sold by Monsanto under Roundup brand
By JACOB BUNGE
March 20, 2015 5:05 p.m. ET

Glyphosate, a herbicide widely marketed by Monsanto Co. and other companies, likely has the potential to cause cancer in humans, a World Health Organization agency said Friday.

The determination, published by researchers for the International Agency for Research on Cancer in a U.K. medical journal, is likely to fuel further debate over the safety of the heavily used agricultural chemical, which Monsanto sells under the Roundup brand.

Consumer and environmental groups have long warned of health problems that they say could arise from applying the weedkiller on farms, while agricultural companies have touted the product’s safety and environmental impact as preferable to other, harsher chemicals. Officials at Monsanto and agricultural-chemical trade groups contested Friday’s finding, saying decades of research had proved glyphosate’s safety.

Glyphosate is the most-used herbicide in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Farmers have ramped up its use over the past two decades with the advent of genetically modified crops, including corn and soybeans, which can withstand sprayings of the chemical. Herbicide-tolerant biotech plants were grown on 94% of U.S. soybean fields and 89% of U.S. corn fields last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In classifying glyphosate as potentially cancer-causing, the international research agency cited studies of occupational exposure to glyphosate in the U.S., Canada and Sweden, which they wrote showed “increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma” along with a positive trend for some ailments in mice in separate studies. Though the researchers cited “limited evidence” that glyphosate was a carcinogen for humans, they classified it as probably carcinogenic to them, according to the article.

Read the full article, here.

Transparency Tour: Martha’s Vineyard

As part of our ongoing Transparency Tour, we were so grateful to be invited to Martha’s Vineyard this past weekend. Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard hosted a well-attended ”Farmer’s Brunch.” They have helped mobilize thousands of Islanders in support local agriculture and GMO labeling.

Here’s some great local coverage of the brunch, the title of this image: “Slow Food Wants Quick Action on GMO Labeling.”

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41 local farms are part of the Island Grown Initiative, which last year, together with SFMV, presented signatures from over 3000 Islanders in support of GMO labeling to state legislators.We’d like to thank them all for their exemplary efforts toward a more democratic food system! Together, we will label GMOs!
 

Transparency Tour: March 2015

With all of the momentum across the country and the region for commonsense GMO labeling, and with spring on the way (hopefully?) we are eager to hit the road and connect with our supporters and local leaders across the state.

Members of the Mass. Coalition for GMO Labeling are organizing, co-sponsoring and attending a wide array of engaging events over the coming weeks. Please join us at a tour stop near you!

transparencytour

 

If you’d like to join us or if you have suggestions for other event, please contact us.

Please see full event details on our calendar page.

Majority of State Legislators Support GMO Food Labeling

(click here to take action now in support of GMO labeling in Massachusetts)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 5, 2015

Contact
Conor Yunits, 617.695.0369conor@libertysquaregroup.com
Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG, 617-747-4319dcummings@masspirg.org

Majority of State Legislators Support GMO Food Labeling

154 Representatives and Senators Co-sponsor legislation

Boston, MA ­ Today, a coalition of consumer, community, farming and public health organizations working to pass a GMO food labeling law announced that a strong majority of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate have signed on as co-sponsors of GMO food labeling legislation. In total, 154 out of 200 Massachusetts legislators ­ including 125 from the House of Representatives and 29 from the Senate ­ have signed on as co-sponsors to the GMO labeling bill.

Foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients are commonly known as GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The bill, currently known as House Docket 369 - An Act establishing the genetic engineering transparency food and seed labeling act –would ensure that all foods sold in Massachusetts that contain genetically engineered ingredients be clearly labeled.  Connecticut, Maine and Vermont have already passed GMO labeling laws.

“We are extremely lucky to have so many incredible legislators supporting this effort here in Massachusetts,” said Martin Dagoberto, of MA Right to Know GMOs. “The level of support from both the House and Senate, as well as from residents from across the state speaks to the momentum behind passing a GMO labeling bill this session.”

“Over the last two years, we have increased the number of co-sponsors on GMO labeling legislation more than sevenfold,” said Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst). “This issue resonates with everyone because it is a reasonable request about a basic right we all should have: tell us what is in our food. I truly believe that this will be our year to pass this bill.”

“At the end of the day, residents here in Massachusetts deserve transparency around something as fundamental as the food they eat and feed their families,” said Deirdre Cummings of MASSPIRG. “Whether we want to seek out or avoid GMOs, this bill will allow consumers to make more educated and informed choices about the food they purchase.”

“People have the right to know and understand the products that are contained within our food in order to make informed and healthy decisions to meet their dietary needs,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).

Legislators are adding their support to this important debate, joining the broad and growing list of supporters for GMO labeling, including consumer, food safety, public health, community, and other organizations. According to a poll conducted by the New York Times, 93 percent of Americans support labeling foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.

“Farmers are getting more and more questions about GMOs — people are really upset about not knowing if they are in their food. We are grateful that so many legislators see the importance of clearly labeling them. That will help our businesses, our customers, and the local farm economy.” — Jack Kittredge, certified organic farmer and policy director, NOFA/Mass (Northeast Organic Farming Association, Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.) NOFA/Mass has 1200 members in the Commonwealth and in one of 7 state NOFA chapters in the northeast.

“Support for GMO labeling legislation is growing by the day,” said Representative Todd Smola (R-Palmer). “Massachusetts can be a leading state on GMO labeling if we are willing to take a step in the right direction. This legislation is about promoting public health, but it is also about transparency.”

“Constituents from every community I represent have reached out to me and expressed their support for having GMO products clearly labeled,” said Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem). “I’m happy to join this growing effort designed to increase the amount of information provided to Massachusetts consumers.”

“This bill, in its simplest form, provides residents in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with information on the foods they are consuming,” said Representative Michael J. Moran (D-Boston). “It is important to know what we are feeding our families.”

“This is an important issue to me.  I strongly believe we have the right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our families,” said Representative Stephen L. DiNatale (D-Fitchburg). “This legislation will simply ensure that Massachusetts consumers are well informed.”

The overwhelming number of co-sponsors is due in part to hard work and commitment from the GMO legislative leadership team from both the House and Senate. The team includes RepresentativesStory (Amherst), Smola (Palmer), M.Moran (Boston), Rushing (Boston), Peake (Provincetown), DiNatale (Fitchburg), Dykema (Holliston), Farley-Bouvier (Pittsfield), Madden (Nantucket), Mannal (Barnstable), Decker (Cambridge), Kocot (Northampton), Keefe (Worcester), Cariddi (North Adams), Boldyga (Southwick), Fox (Boston) and Senators Lovely (Salem), Tarr (Gloucester), Wolf (Harwich), Eldridge (Acton), O’Connor Ives (Newburyport).

A full list of co-sponsors can be found at http://marighttoknow.org/endorsements. For more information on the coalition visit http://www.marighttoknow.org or Facebook.

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GMO labeling bill just introduced in new legislative session: help recruit co-sponsors!

On Jan 13th, 2015, our legislative champions filed a GMO labeling bill (HD. 369) in the Massachusetts legislature for the 2015-16 legislative session.

UPDATE (2/2/15): Deadline for cosponsors extended ’till Tuesday at 5p! (thank you, snow). We’re waiting on confirmation, but it looks like WE WILL HAVE A MAJORITY of cosponsors, BUT there are still a few more we’d really like to get. Are your legislators on board, yet? 

Now we need YOUR help to recruit a majority of lawmakers to co-sponsor the bill before the end of the month. Let’s start the new session with a bang!

New Bill Introduced

In the last legislative session, 2013-14, the Massachusetts GMO labeling bill made it further than it ever had before, and we went from 20 original co-sponsors to 146 legislators who expressed their support by the end of the session. Because of YOU (over 40,000 emails, signatures and comments to legislators), we made GMO labeling a high-profile issue in the State House. Please help us pick up where we left off and make 2015 the year that Massachusetts labels GMOs!

We have bipartisan support in both the house and senate and we’re getting everyone behind one bill. Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst), Representative Todd Smola (R-Palmer), Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem) and Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) have stepped up as the chief sponsors of the new GMO labeling bill. The bill has a temporary docket number: H.D.369.

We’re starting with those 4 chief sponsors and we need your help to get to 101 co-sponsors (a majority of the 200 seats) by the January 30th deadline..

 

How to take action:

  1. Find out who your state representative and senator are, here, and copy their email addresses to a new email:  http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

  1. Click here to see if your elected officials have previously indicated their     support for GMO labeling. We will also update this sheet as legislators sign on as co-sponsors.http://bit.ly/1fiooqn

  1. Send your elected officials an email asking them to co-sponsor the GMO labeling bill, H.D.369 (talking points, below) and PLEASE “cc” us at masslabelgmos@gmail.com so that we know who’s getting emails. Please personalize the email, at least a little bit, and be sure to include their name! If they have not yet co-sponsored, ask them to. If they have, thank them!

  1. Be sure to email BOTH your senator and representative (and please cc us at     masslabelgmos@gmail.com).

 

H.D.369 is essentially a refile of the bill that was advanced out of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture during the 2013-14 session. Click here for a 2 page fact-sheet summary of the legislation, and feel free to pass it along to your legislators!

Massachusetts now has the opportunity to join with Connecticut, Maine in Vermont at a regional tipping point toward a national GMO labeling standard. This is an historic moment for food democracy. Thank you for being a part of it!

 

If your Senator and/or Representative IS listed as a GMO labeling supporter in the past, but has not yet signed on as a co-sponsor, you can say something like:

cc: masslabelgmos@gmail.com

Subject: [don't forget to use a subject line!]

Dear Senator/Representative [Name],

[Introduce yourself, briefly.] Thank you for expressing your support for GMO labeling! As your constituent, I’m hoping that you will co-sponsor the GMO labeling bill, H.D.369, introduced by Rep. Story, Rep. Smola, Sen. Lovely and Sen. Tarr. [Say a few words about why GMO labeling is important to you – make it personal!] Massachusetts has the opportunity to join with Connecticut, Maine and Vermont in a regional tipping point toward a national GMO labeling standard. I hope you will help us lead the way.

Sincerely,

[your name, town]

If your Senator and/or Representative is NOT listed as a GMO labeling supporter, you can say something like:

cc: masslabelgmos@gmail.com

Subject: [don't forget to use a subject line!]

Dear Senator/Representative [Name],

[Introduce yourself, briefly.] As your constituent, I’m asking for you to help protect my right to know what I’m eating. Please co-sponsor the GMO labeling bill H.D.369, introduced by Rep. Story, Rep. Smola, Sen. Lovely and Sen. Tarr. [Say a few words about why GMO labeling is important to you – make it personal!] Massachusetts has the opportunity to join with Connecticut, Maine and Vermont in a regional tipping point toward a national GMO labeling standard. We have a right to know and we need to know if we’re purchasing genetically engineered foods.

Sincerely,

[your name, town]

 

If your Senator and/or Representative has already co-sponsored the new GMO labeling bill, they still should hear from you!:

cc: masslabelgmos@gmail.com

Subject: [don't forget to use a subject line!]

Dear Senator/Representative [Name],

[Introduce yourself, briefly.] As your constituent, I’m so happy to hear that you’re co-sponsoring the new GMO labeling bill, H.D.369. [Say a few words about why GMO labeling is important to you – make it personal!] I trust that you will do everything in your power to help Massachusetts join with Connecticut, Maine and Vermont in a regional tipping point toward a national GMO labeling standard. Thank you, again, for standing up for my right to know what I’m eating.

Sincerely,

[your name, town]

Food Fighters from Across the US Rally to Protect States’ Rights

Our friends from PA at the rally to stop the DARK act on Dec. 12, 2014 (waiting on the pic of Mass)

Our friends from PA at the rally to stop the DARK act on Dec. 12, 2014 (waiting on the pic of Mass)

Last Wednesday, dozens of Bay Staters were among nearly 600 farmers, consumers and citizens of all stripes who traveled—many overnight on crowded buses—to Washington D.C. to voice opposition to a federal bill stripping states of their right to pass GMO labeling laws. After the hearing and rally, MARTK organizer Martin Dagoberto met his Congressman’s office, and they offered to help us activate the rest of the Massachusetts delegation to stop the DARK act. We’ll need YOUR help to do that! (stay tuned…)

Read more about the day from our friends at the Organic Consumers Association.  Watch the Hearing and hear the tired talking points of the opposition. The outcomes of these proceedings will affect all Americans.  Please see our previous action alert to voice your concerns: “Americans have a Right to Know when GMOs are in our food. Protect states’ rights and stop the DARK act!”
Note: although H.4432 will not likely go anywhere this session, we can be sure the DARK act will return in a new form in the new Congress. We must remain vigilant!
MA_DARK

Action Alert: Stop the federal ban on GMO labeling!

Please call TODAY: America needs YOU to stop the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. House bill HR 4432, written by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Big Food and presented in Congress by Koch-brothers minion Mike  Pompeo, would effectively outlaw mandatory GMO labeling. The U.S. House of Representatives will be holding hearings on the DARK Act on December 10th, and we want to you let our elected officials know that they have our support in fighting for a consumer’s right to know.

stop_DARK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call your elected officials and tell them: 


Right now the House of Representatives is debating HR.4432, a bill that would eliminate states’ rights to label genetically engineered foods. I ask you do everything in your power to make sure that this bill is not passed, nor any future version of it. Please protect our ability to make informed decisions about the food we eat and feed our families.”

Members of MA Right to Know GMOs will be attending a protest in DC being organized by the Organic Consumers Association on December 10th. Will you help magnify our message by calling your elected officials?

☏ Call, Email, Fax and Visit Your Reps 

Tell them to Vote NO on HR4432!

Find your representatives by Zip Code:
http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

☏ Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121 or Toll Free (877) 762-8762

(you can also call direct at their office number when you look them up at the above link)

OR click here to send a quick message to your Representative via a webform:

http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50865/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=13738

Read the bill and see who the co-sponsors are (Thankfully none are from Mass!) 
Source: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr4432

The DARK Act would wipe out Vermont’s first in the nation GMO labeling law, and prohibit any mandatory labeling of GMO foods in the US. All of our efforts here in Massachusetts and across the region could be rendered obsolete! We need your help to stop the DARK Act and protect our right to know what we’re eating.

Note: the real name of bill HR.4432 is “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.” But we think DARK is more appropriate, don’t you?


Thank you for taking action!

 

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.

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

 

ivote2

 

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.