Obama signed the DARK Act, but the movement for food transparency and freedom continues!

The federal government may have cut us off and passed a sham GMO labeling bill, but our work is far from over. We will work with our congressional delegation to ensure the best possible interpretation of the law and launch a new phase of education and consumer action. We are not going away!

 

onward Once again, Big Money has trumped The Will of The People. The federal government, (apparently of, by and for the special interests) has subverted the democratic process and passed a GMO (non) labeling sham of a bill. The so-called “compromise” was passed in relatively astounding time by an impressive margin in both chambers and became law after President Obama signed it on Friday, July 29th, 2016.

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The Massachusetts state legislature was well poised to join with its neighbors in setting the standard for real GMO labeling: the simple, on-package disclosure that more than 90% of Americans support. The Mass. GMO labeling bill (H.3242), the result of more than 10 years of advocacy, hearings and deliberation, has a bipartisan super-majority of support: more than 75% of sitting legislators have cosponsored the bill. Representatives Ellen Story (D-Amherst) and Todd Smola (R-Palmer), in particular, have led the charge and been champions for Massachusetts consumers. However, powerful financial interests and well-connected lobbyists at the State House have successfully delayed movement on the legislation. The bill has been stalled in the House Ways & Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Brian Dempsey (usually the last stop before a floor vote) since early April 2016. While legislative supporters and thousands of voters called for an immediate vote, transparency opponents appear to have had convinced House leadership (the small handful of men who actually decide what moves in the legislature, chief among them: Speaker Robert DeLeo) that this issue would soon be handled at the federal level. They have now delivered on that promise, removing the pressure on state legislators to act on the will of the People (and risk offending powerful agri-chemical and biotech interests).

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We knew the cards were stacked against us. We were going up against some of the most powerful transnational corporate interests. All along, the goal was to push for mandatory labeling at the state level in order to set the standard and to force the conversation at the federal level. Thanks to Vermont’s leadership in particular (their law went into effect July 1, 2016), we were successful in forcing that conversation and we should claim that victory. However, the conversation so far as not gone in the direction we had hoped. Fortunately, the conversation is far from over.
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Thank YOU for adding your voice to millions of others calling for clear labeling of GMO ingredients. We would not have gotten this far without you. Please take action, once again, by contacting your members of congress. Ask for their help in fixing this sham of a GMO labeling law! marighttoknow.org/contactcongress

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Even with the Roberts GMO labeling “compromise” (a.k.a. the DARK Act) signed into law, there will be several opportunities to build upon it to create something that could work for those who want to know which foods contain GMO ingredients. This will take continued vigilance and support from our grassroots. It will also require no small amount of leadership and collaboration within and among our representatives in Congress.

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GMO labeling advocates in Massachusetts were shocked and disappointed to learn that nearly half of our congressional delegation voted for the Roberts “compromise” (whereas the entire delegations of our neighbors in CT, VT and ME voted against the non-labeling bill). Representatives Keating, Kennedy, Lynch, Moulton and Tsongas all voted for this sham GMO labeling bill. Many of us feel betrayed. We can and should think about what we will do as a voter base to change our representation, but with the lack of primary challengers for these seats this election cycle, the composition of our delegation is unlikely to change in the short term; (another problem worth discussing).

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We have no choice but to work with what we’ve got: a bunk GMO labeling law and a U.S. Congress that might not understand how badly they just messed up. We can only hope that they will be willing to help us try to fix this as best we can. Without letting them off easy, we should recognize that many members of Congress appear to be under the impression that the Roberts GMO labeling law will actually give consumers the information that we have been demanding.

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We are certain that the Massachusetts delegation as a whole will be very important in any next steps that can be taken to make of the best of a bad situation.

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We are so grateful for Senators Warren and Markey and for those representatives who voted against the S.764 in the House: Representatives Richard Neal, Jim McGovern, Katherine Clark and Michael Capuano – THANK YOU! Massachusetts has a proud history of leading the way on a number of progressive issues, and we should expect that our delegation will continue this tradition.

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We are especially grateful for the vocal opposition of our Congressman Jim McGovern, who repeatedly and vocally underscored the discriminatory and ludicrous nature of a disclosure system relying on digital “QR” codes and 800 numbers.

Here are a few choice quotes from McGovern’s speech on the House floor before the vote on the Roberts bill (7/13/16):
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“It is a bad idea. It is an intentional measure to deny consumers information…The best approach would be a clear and easy-to-understand label or symbol, not some crazy QR code that only creates more hassle and confusion…Wouldn’t it be nice if – I know this is a radical idea in this Congress – but wouldn’t it be nice if for once – this Congress actually did what the American people want?”

 

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THANK YOU, Congressman McGovern. We are counting on your bold leadership moving forward.

Watch his full speech, here.

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Surprisingly, we can even be grateful to the F.D.A. (no fans of GMO labeling) for pointing out that the definitions of “bioengineering” created by the law could exclude a large proportion of GMO ingredients from labeling requirements.

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The battle for transparency in food labeling will now shift to the USDA, which is empowered by the Roberts bill to interpret and finalize GMO labeling regulations. GMO labeling advocacy groups will need to work with our allies in the legislature to do what we can to make the best of the Roberts bill. We are fortunate to have had three states set the bar for on-package labeling. We must point to that standard as we hold our legislators accountable. If lawmakers are going to claim passage of a “mandatory GMO labeling law,” we must hold them accountable and try to have it ultimately fulfill the spirit of transparency.

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We can not simply throw up our hands on the legislative process, as corrupted by special interests as it is. At the same time, we can not and should not rely solely on the legislative process in our effort to reclaim control over our food supply. There are no shortage of solutions-oriented, people-centered movements for local food control and regenerative agriculture and those disillusioned by the political process are encouraged to focus there. At the same time, an increasing number of people are fed up with the corrupting influence of corporate money in our democratic process and are unifying to reclaim control over our government. And while some of us organize to address unjust influence and control, others will continue to work with those in power to reflect the will of the People.

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The MA Right to Know GMOs steering committee heartily thanks every single person who has joined this movement for transparency. All things considered, we have made significant progress in the last few years (for instance, look how many people learned that there are GMOs in our food!). We look forward to continuing this work together.

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“So, what can we do now?”

 

Please stay tuned to our website (MArighttoknow.org) and Facebook page for updates as they become available. In the mean time, here are some ways that you can keep the movement moving:

 

*Contact your members of Congress to demand that they do everything that they can to implement REAL standards for transparency in GMO labeling.

marighttoknow.org/contactcongress

 

*Join us at the 2016 NOFA Summer Conference, August 12-14 at UMass Amherst: “Let’s not despair – instead let’s work together on positive solutions to the problems we’re facing! At this year’s NOFA Summer Conference presenters and attendees are addressing pressing issues like global warming, racial and social inequity, growing good food, and creating hopeful, resilient lives and communities.” Early bird tickets available until August 6th: More info at NOFAsummerconference.org

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*Follow us on Facebook and share content with your networks to keep us growing! (Those not on Facebook can still view the page and share content via email with their friends).

 

Stay tuned for more updates and ways to take action as things come together and don’t hesitate to get in touch with any ideas or offers to help. Thank you, once again, for being part of this people-powered movement for transparency!

 

Backroom deal on federal GMO labeling? Not so fast!

Update, 7/6/16, 5 PM:

puppets3Today the US Senate leadership voted to cut off debate on a GMO Labeling bill in an effort to jam through the industry backed proposal that is virtually unenforceable. S.764 is an industry wish list that excludes more foods than it might label and after a statutory delay, will likely make consumers play “hide and seek” to get the information they need.

Read the full statement of Tara Cook-Littman, Board President of Citizens for GMO Labeling, here. http://citizensforgmolabeling.org/puppets/

We need to stop this new industry proposal. It is not a compromise, but a total cave to the special interests.

Just a few days before the historic Vermont GMO labeling law implements, Senators Roberts and Stabenow have introduced a new bill that is nothing more than an industry sponsored attempt to keep Americans in the DARK about what we are eating. This supposed compromise is no better and arguably even worse than what was voted down just a few months ago. Please take action today and ask your senators to stand with the American people by voting NO on the “DARKER Act”. Please dial 866-772-3843 and you will be connected with your senators.

We are seeing GMO labels across the country thanks to the Vermont law with no confusion or increased cost of food as the opposition suggested would happen. GMO labeling is already happening. Is Congress actually suggesting that the country’s largest food companies change their labels again? It is time for the industry to accept the fact that they lost this one.

Please call your senators today at 866-772-3843. We can not allow industry interests to trump our personal rights. We have stopped Monsanto and their allies before and we will do it again as long as we stand together and let our collective voices be heard.

Read the full statement from Citizens for GMO Labeling, here.

You can also read the full text of the bill, here.

And here is a good article to share from Huffington Post (Carry Gillam)

Please take action using the number provided by our friends at Food & Water Watch in their action alert, copied below:

This Is It: The Senate Will Vote to Ban GMO Food Labeling
Call 866-772-3843 and Tell Your Senators to Vote NO on Senator Roberts’ Bill!

Yesterday Senator Roberts (R-KS) and Senator Stabenow (D-MI) have announced a deal to bring Monsanto’s dream bill to the Senate floor. Your Senators will vote as soon as next week.

Call 866-772-3843 to tell your Senators to reject the “compromise” Roberts’ bill (S. 2609) and any bill that prevents mandatory GMO labeling.

The final bill is terrible. In an attempt to find “compromise,” the bill will preempt state laws that require on-package GMO labeling in exchange for a website url, a QR code, a symbol or a phone number on the package that will send consumers on a wild goose chase to figure out what GMOs might be in their food.

It’s critical that your Senators hear from you today. Calls are the fastest, most-effective way to get your message through to Congress.

  1. Call 866-772-3843 to be connected to one of your Senator’s offices. You will hear a short message from me, and then you will be transferred to one of your Senator’s D.C. offices.
  2. When a staffer answers, tell them your name, where you’re from, and say:
    I’m a constituent and I care about my right to know what’s in the food I eat. I want my Senator to vote NO on the “compromise” version of Senate Bill 2609 and any other legislation that results in anything less than mandatory on-package labeling for GMO foods.
  3. If you call again, you will automatically be routed to your second Senator. We expect thousands of people to call today, so if you have trouble getting through, please be persistent and keep trying.

Vermont’s GMO labeling law is going into effect next Friday, July 1, but this move in the Senate will overturn their democratically enacted law. According to a New York Times poll, 93% of Americans want genetically engineered (GMO) foods labeled, but big food companies like Monsanto, Pepsi, Coke, Dow and others that are part of the Grocery Manufacturers Association will stop at nothing to ban GMO labels.

This could be our last chance for real GMO labeling. Call your Senators at 866-772-3843 and tell them to reject any bill that takes away mandatory on-package GMO labeling that can be read in one quick glance.

The food industry is close to banning all labels on genetically engineered foods. A single phone call may not seem like much, but added to thousands of others, it can have a big impact — and the timing is critical, as your Senators will be voting on this legislation as soon as next week.

Please call 866-772-3843 and tell your Senators that you want GMO labels required on food — reject S. 2609!

Final hour for GMO labeling? Take action now!

Please use the below action page to send a quick message to your Federal AND Massachusetts legislators (if you live here). We are confident that our federal delegation is with us on this, but they still need our encouragement. We really need to get more emails to our state legislators so that our Massachusetts GMO labeling bill gets moving in the new year. Please consider picking up a phone and calling your state representative and senator (number will appear after you enter your address).

Note: this action page works for anyone in the U.S. It will send the message to their own Senators and Representative. Please share far and wide!

Call your U.S. Senators to Stop the DARK Act!

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The Massachusetts GMO labeling bill has the support of over 75% of the legislature and we had a wildly successful public hearing a couple weeks ago. But the federal DARK Act would render our efforts obsolete, because it would prohibit states like ours from requiring mandatory GMO labeling.

Please take action now to take back our food supply and our democracy. Call both of your senators with the below phone number and ask your friends and family across the country to do the same!

Massachusetts Senators Markey and Warren have already come out against the DARK Act. But we need them to be loud and vocal opponents and to talk to their peers who are not yet on the right side of this issue.

No matter where you live in the U.S. please call this number to be connected to your Senators. 

Call 877-762-8762 to be connected to both Senators!

You can say something like:

“As your constituent, I’m counting on your leadership to stop the DARK Act., H.1599, which is heading to the Senate. Please come out in strong opposition and please talk to your Senate colleagues on the floor. Let them know this is NOT the GMO labeling bill we’re asking for!”

 

On October 21st the Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the DARK Act and our voices will not be heard, so be sure they hear you NOW.

We deserve and need to know if GMOs are in the food we are feeding ourselves and our families. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA, which represents Monsanto and others) is fighting harder than ever because they know the truth will not remain hidden, we are winning. Our opponents are afraid to label GMOs; they are afraid of US, because we have truth and transparency on our side.

Call your Senators TODAY and ask them to stand with the people of this country in strong opposition to the DARK Act, HR 1599.

For more info on the DARK Act and to send a personalized email to both Senators, please visit out action page at marighttoknow.org/StopDark

Click here for PDF of a DARK Action flier that you can distribute at local events!

Non-GMO Month: Calendar of Events

nongmomonthOctober is Non-GMO Month, and we have a full calendar of events across the state: marighttoknow.org/calendar

Bite by bite, we’re taking back our food, our government and our lives! The movement for GMO labeling is hitting a critical Mass…, and people across the country are learning how to regain control over what they feed their families.

We are happy to announce an incredible line-up of non-GMO events across Massachusetts this month. Some are organized by us, some by our friends and Network Partners. The list is likely to grow and if we’ve missed any, let us know!

Public Hearing a HUGE Success!

(See some great media coverage here and here.)

We want to express a heartfelt thanks to all those who attended Tuesday’s hearing on H.3242, to the 300+ who submitted written testimony and to the many who provided compelling testimony in person. We also want to thank all the volunteers who made the press conference possible and who worked to gather contact information from GMO labeling supporters and to distribute packets of postcards and other information to indicate their support for the bill to their own legislators.

The broad majority of those in attendance were GMO labeling supporters, as clearly indicated by their bright green “Label GMOs” stickers. Committee Vice Chair, Rep. Brian Mannal astutely noted this evidence that labeling does, in fact, work!

Only three people testified against our mandatory GMO labeling bill. One younger man with a British accent spoke so quickly that his comments were incoherent. The second person was a representative of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the third was a representative of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). These last two repeated many of the all-to-common GMO industry myths that we all know: GMOs are needed to feed the world, no one ever injured by eating GMOs, scientific consensus on GMO safety, the label would be a warning, labeling would confuse consumers, the cost of labeling to consumers is high, and so on.
Fortunately, a few of the legislators on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee challenged them on several points.
Committee member Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) provided one of the most memorable zingers of the hearing. After the opposition panel said their piece, Rep. Cutler asked the following of question to the representative of the Grocery Manufacturers Association:
Rep. Cutler: “…this Cornell study [which says that GMO labeling] would cost $500 per family per year, could you just tell us who funded that study?”
Mr. Costa (GMA): “Um… the uh… the uh study I believe came…, came from… uh, the uh.. Cornell University…”
Rep. Cutler [cutting him off]: “I’ll give you the answer. The Study came from the Council for Biotechnology Information.”
[WILD APPLAUSE FROM THE CROWD]
Later in the hearing, Jean Halloran from Consumer’s Union testified that its study of the same issue put the cost for a family of four at less than $10 per year.At this point it is important to thank all the legislators who testified in support of GMO labeling bill H.3242 and we hope to forward that list to you soon. The Coalition presented a photo testimony book to the Committee which consisted of color photos and testimony from 105 legislators.  It was very handsome, unique and a lot of work!

We now wait for the committee to “exec” the bill – that is to act on it.  We hope it will receive a favorable report from the Committee.  Last session a similar bill was referred to House Ways and Means for an examination of possible financial impact to the state’s budget and its potential effect on commerce. We will have to wait and see what happens there.

 

To send a message to your legislators encouraging them to vote on the bill ASAP, please visit: marighttoknow.org/contactlegislators

 

MA Coalition for GMO Labeling Applauds Massachusetts House Delegation for Voting No on DARK Act

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To send a THANK you to our members of Congress who voted NO and to encourage our Senators to do the same, please click here.

Boston, MA ­– Today, a coalition of consumer, community, farming and public health organizations working to pass a GMO food labeling law, thanked the Massachusetts congressional delegation for voting against HR1599, known as the Denying Americans the Right-to-Know (DARK) Act. The DARK Act passed the House 275-150, but eight of nine Massachusetts House members voted no. Representative Bill Keating (D-MA) did not vote on the bill.

“We are very grateful to the members of the Massachusetts delegation that voted against this blatant attempt by the food manufacturers and agro-chemical industry to squash states’ rights and consumers right to know,” said Martin Dagoberto, of MA Right to Know GMOs. “We hope that Senators Warren and Markey will stand with the House delegation and help defeat this awful legislation in the U.S. Senate.”

The DARK Act pre-empts state and local control over genetically engineered foods, often referred to as genetically modified organisms or GMOs, without putting a real system in place. Instead, 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.

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. “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.

“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. “Every mother deserves to know what her baby is eating. Every farmer deserves to know what crops are growing in 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.