Proposed federal law would undercut state efforts to address GMO labeling
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2015
Contact: Conor Yunits, 617.695.0369, firstname.lastname@example.org
Boston, MA - Today, a coalition of consumer, community, farming and public health organizations working to pass a GMO food labeling law, as well as their legislative champions in the Massachusetts State House, called on the Massachusetts congressional delegation to vote against HR1599, known as the Denying Americans the Right-to-Know (DARK) Act. The DARK Act was advanced by the House Agricultural Committee last week, and could emerge for a vote in the full House of Representatives as early as tomorrow, Thursday, July 23.
The DARK Act would improperly pre-empt state and local control over genetically engineered foods, often referred to as genetically modified organisms or GMOs. In place of state laws, the DARK Act would establish a federal policy of voluntary labeling for GMOs, which will fail to help consumers. The bill also creates a federal government bureaucracy for non-GMO labeling, even though there is already a private system that’s working well, and prevents state and local governments from implementing any sort of oversight of GMO crops, even when the federal government has declined to regulate them.
“Passage of this law would be a tremendous blow to consumer information and transparency,” said Martin Dagoberto of MA Right to Know GMOs. “This is a law driven by corporate interests who are trying to stymie the growing movement of citizens to know more about their food. In addition, given that the GMO labeling movement has only had success in New England to this point, this bill feels like a direct attack by Congress on the people of New England, and our Congressional delegation should vote against it.”
To date, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont have passed labeling laws, and many other states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, are considering their own bills. Supporters of the DARK Act claim that federal preemption is needed because food manufacturers would have trouble complying with a patchwork of state laws. But every state law on GMO labeling that has been adopted, and the overwhelming majority of the bills that have been proposed in recent years, share the same core elements, including the definitions of key terms, what level of GMO ingredients trigger the labeling requirement, and the exemptions. No patchwork currently exists, nor is there likely to be one.
“I am disappointed to see this proposal advance on the federal level,” said State Representative Todd M. Smola (R-Warren). “States have every right to demand the labeling of GMO’s on products without federal intervention. GMO labeling is an open and transparent proposal that will provide consumers with information so that they can be well informed to make decisions about the products they buy. All we are looking to do is equip people with the facts. It will be up to them as to what they do with that information.”
“I support the growing movement in Massachusetts to consider GMO labeling and believe that each state should have the opportunity to debate the merits of this issue and enact laws to make sure consumers can make informed decisions about the food products they buy,” said State Senator Joan Lovely (D-Peabody).
“Massachusetts is full of savvy consumers who are asking to know about the products they use and the food they eat. We demand high standards,” said State Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst). “Every mother deserves to know what her baby is eating. Every farmer deserves to know what crops are growing her fields. Every person has a right to observe the religious dietary restrictions of her choice. Labeling makes good on those needs. I cannot believe that in the 21st century, Congress could seriously be considering hiding this information from us.”
The Massachusetts bill, H. 3242 - 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. The bill is sponsored by 154 of 200 legislators in Massachusetts, and will hopefully come up for a vote in 2015.
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.