CONGRESS PASSES SHAM GMO FOOD LABELING BILL

PREEMPTS REAL GMO LAWS ALREADY PASSED/PENDING IN STATES

 Representatives McGovern, Neal, Capuano and Clarkstand up for consumers and vote against bill

TAKE ACTION: Ask Obama to VETO: http://wh.gov/iFYPQ

On July 14, 2016, the U.S. House voted (306-117) to pass an industry backed GMO labeling bill, S. 764, that makes a mockery of consumers’ right to know. The bill now heads to President Obama for his signature or veto.

“Consumers deserve transparency around something as fundamental as the food they eat and feed their families,” said Deirdre Cummings of MASSPIRG. “The bill that passed Congress will blindfold the public. It is clear that Congress acted in the interest of the big Ag and Food industry and not that of the average consumer. It couldn’t be more simple: the public wants labels, the industry wants us in the dark. While we greatly appreciate the leadership of Congressmen McGovern, Neal, Capuano and Clark voting the right way, too many of the Massachusetts delegation, including Congressmen Lynch, Keating, Kennedy, Moulton and Tsongaschose the special interests over the public interest.”

The major failings of the passed bill:

No Labels: Instead of a simple, uniform, easy to read, on-the-package GMO label, like the one in effect in Vermont today, the bill would allow companies to use symbols, 1-800 numbers, or QR codes that need to be scanned with smart phones.

Consumer labeling is only useful when it is simple, uniform and easy to compare, anything else doesn’t work and only serves to undermine consumer choice. In fact, poll after poll has shown that ninety percent of Americans are in favor of clear, consistent labeling.

Repeals and prevents adoption of real consumer labeling laws: Even worse, the bill would abolish the GMO labeling law currently in effect in VT, and those passed in ME, CT and AK, and prohibit other states from passing labeling laws, like the one pending in Massachusetts that is cosponsored by 154 of 200 members of the legislature.

Massive Loopholes:  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is critical of the bill. Specifically, the agency argued the narrow definition of “bioengineering,” would likely mean that many foods from GE sources will not be subject to this bill”.

Not enforced: The bill is essentially voluntary as there are no fines or penalties for companies that do not comply even with this weak law.

The President should oppose this sham industry bill and stand up for consumers’ right- to- know and their ability to make informed choices in the market place,” said Martin Dagoberto of Massachusetts Right to Know GMO. “It’s outrageous that Congress has just nullified GMO labeling laws already passed across the country and silenced the ability of our own legislature to pass the broadly supported GMO labeling bill currently pending in our legislature.”

Background: Legislation providing citizens with the basic right to know whether the food they are feeding their families contain genetically engineered (GE or GMO) ingredients has been introduced in more than 30 states, with Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Alaska already having enacted such laws. These legislative proposals have been met with fierce opposition from the biotechnology, farm, and grocery manufacturing lobbies that have spent millions to defeat legislation in the states. With the Vermont law going into effect on July 1, 2016, those powerful special interests have turned to Congress for undermine consumers’ right to know.

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U.S. Senate Passes Sham of GMO Food Labeling Bill

PREEMPTS REAL GMO LAWS ALREADY PASSED/PENDING IN STATES

Warren and Markey stand up for consumers and vote against bill

(CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION TO STOP THE ROBERTS BILL)

 

PRESS RELEASE – July 8, 2016

On July 7, 2016, the U.S. Senate voted 63-30 to pass an industry backed, GMO labeling bill, S. 764, that makes a mockery of consumers’ right to know. The bill must be approved by the U.S. House and the President before becoming law.

 

Consumers deserve transparency around something as fundamental as the food they eat and feed their families,” said Deirdre Cummings of MASSPIRG. “The bill that passed the US Senate will blindfold the public. The bill that passed is the bill that big Ag wanted, not the bill that 90% of the public wanted. It couldn’t be more simple: the public wants labels, the industry wants us in the dark, and while we greatly appreciate Senators Markey and Warren voting the right way, 63 Senators unfortunately chose the special interests over the public interest.”

The major failings of the Senate passed bill:

Non Labeling: Instead of a simple, uniform, easy to read, on-the-package GMO label, like the one in effect in Vermont today, the bill would allow companies to use symbols, 1-800 numbers, or QR codes that need to be scanned with smart phones.

Consumer labeling is only useful when it is simple, uniform and easy to compare, anything else doesn’t work and only serves to undermine consumer choice. In fact, poll after poll has shown that ninety percent of Americans are in favor of clear, consistent labeling.

Repeals and prevents adoption of real consumer labeling laws: Even worse, the bill would abolish the GMO labeling law currently in effect in VT, and those passed in ME, CT and AK, and prohibit other states from passing labeling laws, like the one pending in Massachusetts that is cosponsored by 154 of 200 members of the legislature.

Massive Loopholes:  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is critical of the bill. Specifically, the agency argued the narrow definition of “bioengineering,” would likely mean that many foods from GE sources will not be subject to this bill”.

Not enforced: The bill is essentially voluntary as there are no fines or penalties for companies that do not comply even with this weak law.

The US House should oppose this sham industry bill and stand up for consumers’ right- to- know and their ability to make informed choices in the market place,” said Martin Dagoberto of Massachusetts Right to Know GMO. “It’s now even more important that the Massachusetts legislature pass its pending GMO labeling bill, joining with Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont, to set a meaningful national standard for labeling that is clear and simple, and demonstrate to Congress what a real consumer right-to-know bill should look like.”

Background: Legislation providing citizens with the basic right to know whether the food they are feeding their families contain genetically engineered (GE or GMO) ingredients has been introduced in more than 30 states, with Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Alaska already having enacted such laws. These legislative proposals have been met with fierce opposition from the biotechnology, farm, and grocery manufacturing lobbies that have spent millions to defeat legislation in the states. With the Vermont law going into effect on July 1, 2016, those powerful special interests have turned to Congress for undermine consumers’ right to know.

GMO Labels on Major Products Prove Vermont Law Having Impact

Time for Massachusetts to Act

Boston – GMO labeling advocates at the Massachusetts State House today displayed a variety of food products that label their use of genetically engineered ingredients, a clear sign that Vermont’s law is already having an impact on consumer information. The advocates called on Massachusetts legislators to pass pending GMO labeling legislation and further strengthen the labeling effort.

Today’s display included a variety of products including Lay’s Potato Chips, Doritos, Pepsi, and M&Ms. Each package includes the words “Produced (or Partially Produced) with Genetic Engineering. The items are produced by Mars, Pepsi and Frito-Lay, all of which announced their intention to label products earlier this year in response to Vermont’s first-in-the-nation mandatory labeling law.

“What’s clear from these examples is that the various arguments made by labeling opponents simply don’t hold water,” said Deirdre Cummings of MASSPIRG. “A GMO label did not increase prices, food manufacturers did not refuse to distribute their product to VT, nor is the label inflammatory. These labels simply provide consumers with additional information, alongside other information, which allows consumers to make the food choices that are right for them.”

Most of the products on display were purchased last week at the Roche Bros. in Downtown Crossing. Notably, a number of identical items purchased from the same store at the same time were not labeled. For example, of two bags of Spicy Doritos pulled off the same shelf, only one included the GMO wording.

“It’s great that these products are labeled, but already the voluntary system has created issues with consistency and clarity,” said Martin Dagoberto of MA Right to Know GMO.  “If a consumer picks up one bag of chips that is not labeled, they don’t know if it doesn’t contain GMOs or if it’s simply not packaged to sell in Vermont. That’s one reason why it’s so important for Massachusetts to pass its own labeling law and to continue to move us toward a meaningful national standard before transparency opponents pass watered-down legislation in D.C.”

The Massachusetts bill, H. 4156, The Genetic Engineering Transparency Food Labeling Act, would require clear labeling of food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients. It was amended and advanced by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture in March, but has not yet been scheduled for a vote by the full House of Representatives or Senate, despite having the support of more than 75% of members in both chambers and of both parties.

The Massachusetts Coalition for GMO Labeling has been meeting with legislators throughout the spring to continue to push for passage of the law, which would eliminate confusion brought about by a voluntary labeling, and continue to set a standard for other states and the federal government to emulate.

“It is past time for us to catch up with the 64 other countries that have labeled GMO food,” said Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst) “We need to follow Vermont’s courageous lead to give consumers the information that they need.”

“It is the right of all people to know what foods they are buying and how they are produced,” said Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren), a cosponsor of the bill. “The overwhelming response is that people want GMO labeling in Massachusetts. I sincerely hope that H.4156 is scheduled for a vote before the end of this session.”

“The everyday right to be a protector and advocate of our own bodies starts in the home and at the table,” said Kristi Marsh, founder of the Savvy Women’s Alliance. “The right to know and understand how our food was grown – or created- is integral for day to day living. We are hoping Massachusetts will continue to be a leader, representing its people by actively implementing timely informative legislation.”

Following the press conference, GMO labeling volunteers gathered for a “lunch in” on the Common to hear updates, learn more about the issue and share strategies on building support for the bill’s passage.

The Massachusetts Coalition for GMO Labeling will continue working with the bill’s sponsors and nearly 500 local farms, businesses and organizations to pass a strong GMO labeling law before the end of the 2016 legislative session.

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

 

Pass the GMO labeling bill now

Despite wide support, measure may not get a vote

By Deirdre Cummings and Martin Dagoberto
(as originally published Commonwealth Magazine, April 19. 2016)

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MOST PEOPLE CARE what’s in their food. Whether the reason is dietary, religious, moral, or a concern about flavor, we like to know – and many need to know – what we’re eating. That’s why nearly everything we consume is labeled, and why those labels are so important to us. In January, Whole Foods had to recall 75,000 pounds of frozen pepperoni pizzas, not because the food was bad or dangerous, but because it was incorrectly labeled. Those labels matter. And yet, still, in 2016, there is no law requiring labeling of a genetically modified organism, or GMO, ingredient in Massachusetts. We can and should change that this year.

 

The country’s first mandatory GMO labeling bill is set to take effect in Vermont in July. As a result, Campbell Soup Company, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, and ConAgra have all announced over the last few weeks that they will begin to label their products to comply. Despite overwhelming support for labeling across the country (93 percent in an ABC News poll conducted last June), it’s clear that these companies would not be taking this step if not for the Vermont law.

 

Northeastern states have led the way on this issue for years (Connecticut and Maine have also passed labeling laws), and remain the only US governments that have taken action. Sixty-four countries, including member nations of the European Union, Russia, China, Brazil, Australia, Turkey, and South Africa already require GMO food labeling. If we want to see GMO ingredients labeled on our food (and 93 percent of us do), Massachusetts and other states must step forward and set the standard.

 

Last year, 154 of Massachusetts’s 200 legislators, including big majorities of both the Senate and the House, of Democrats and Republicans, joined together to cosponsor The Genetic Engineering Transparency Food Labeling Act. Yet, despite the support of more than 75 percent of the Legislature, the bill, H. 4156, is far from guaranteed even a vote by the Legislature. That’s a major problem for anyone who wants labeling of GMO ingredients, because despite calls for a new federal law, Congress is not coming to the rescue anytime soon.

 

In 2015, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” which is more properly titled the “Denying Americans the Right-to-Know,” or DARK, Act. The DARK Act not only prohibits the federal government from mandating GMO labeling, it also prevents states from passing labeling laws, and instead institutes a framework for voluntary labeling.

 

Among the many problems with this proposed law, which has been pushed by the Grocery Manufacturers of America and its allies in the biochemical and agrochemical industries, is that it’s based on the false premise that a majority of major food companies will voluntarily label their products. These same industry groups are currently pulling out the stops to pass the DARK Act in the US Senate, desperately trying to roll back Vermont’s law.

 

We have often heard that states are the laboratories of democracy. Important reforms, demanded by citizens, are often debated, vetted, and passed on the state level where lawmakers are closer to their constituents and less influenced by industry giants and their armies of lobbyists. Only after being faced with the prospect of negotiating different laws in different states and wasting millions of dollars in uphill battles are powerful monied interests willing to come to the table on the national level to adopt simple reforms for the whole country. The reality is the states, particularly Vermont, have pushed the major food companies to label GMOs, and must continue to do so.

 

As the Whole Foods pizza recall proves, we all want to know what’s in our food. And as the debate in Washington proves, it is more important than ever for Massachusetts to side with consumers and pass the GMO labeling bill. By joining with Vermont, we not only provide our fellow citizens with the right to know about GMOs, we also strengthen the likelihood of getting a meaningful national GMO labeling law for the entire country.

GMO Labeling Bill Takes Important First Step Toward Passage

UPDATE: On April 5th the Mass. GMO labeling bill (new number: H.4156) was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee after being unanimously passed from the Environment/Agriculture Committee. It’s now one BIG step closer to passage and we are all closer to regaining our right to know what we’re eating.

With Monsanto trying to bully Vermont and stop them from labeling GMOs this summer, NOW is the time to stand with them. The bill which was released has some good and bad in it and we need your help to ensure passage of the strongest possible version.

Learn more about the bill and take action, here.

March 3, 2016

Boston – A bill that would give consumers clear labels for GMO food ingredients today cleared the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture, a critical first step on the road to passage. H. 3242, The Genetic Engineering Transparency Food Labeling Act, would require clear labeling of food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients (commonly called “GMOs”).

The Massachusetts Coalition for GMO Labeling applauded the move by House Chair Paul Schmid (D-Westport) and Senate Chair Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) to advance the bill, which enjoys strong bipartisan support across both chambers of the Massachusetts legislature.

“Passage of the GMO bill from committee is an important step toward giving consumers more information about the food they eat and feed their families,” said Deirdre Cummings, of MASSPIRG. “We are looking forward to working with leadership in both branches and our 154 cosponsors to make sure this is the best bill for consumers and bring it to floor for a vote in both the House and Senate.”

Similar laws have recently passed in Connecticut, Maine and Vermont, which is the first to go into effect in July. Supporters cautioned that there is still work to do on the bill as it moves through the legislative process; including making sure the bill mirrors what other early adopters have done and takes effect shortly after Vermont’s law is implemented this July.

“We’re glad to see the bill moving, but this is just the first step,” said Martin Dagoberto of MA Right to Know GMOs. “With all this support on such a hot issue, the time is right for Massachusetts to join with its neighbors and set a national, uniform standard for GMO labeling.”

Congress is currently considering a voluntary GMO labeling bill, opposed by  consumer groups across the country including every member of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation The bill, known as the Denying Americans the Right-to-Know (DARK) Act, was advanced by the Senate Agricultural Committee earlier this week, and could emerge for a vote in the full Senate soon. Among the many problems with bill it would prohibit the FDA from adopting mandatory GMO food labeling and preempt states from doing the same. Instead the bill establishes only a voluntary labeling program.

The Massachusetts Coalition for GMO Labeling will continue working with the bill’s sponsors and more than 470 local farms, businesses and organizations to pass a strong GMO labeling law before the end of the 2016 legislative session.

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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Westport farms and businesses call on Rep. Schmid to release GMO labeling bill from Committee

westportfarms

Boston, MA ­– Two-dozen Westport farms and businesses today called on Rep. Paul Schmid, Sen. Anne Gobi, and Speaker Robert DeLeo to advance H.3242 – An Act establishing the genetic engineering transparency food and seed labeling act – out of committee. H. 3242 would ensure that all foods sold in Massachusetts that contain genetically engineered ingredients be clearly labeled.

Last fall, Rep. Schmid’s committee, the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, held a public hearing for H. 3242. During more than four hours of testimony, the Committee heard from dozens of supporters from all walks of life, with the only opposition coming from a panel organized by the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association. Despite the overwhelming support for the bill, the legislation has not yet been released from committee. Today, two-dozen businesses based in Rep. Schmid’s district signed a letter sent to Senate co-chair Schmid, along with Senate co-chair Gobi and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, calling for immediate action on the bill.

“Farmers will continue to grow what people want to eat. GMO labeling simply gives people the power of choice – ultimately,it’s better for consumers and better for our businesses.” – Healthy Futures Farm

“Key players in the Westport farming and business community want Chairman Schmid to know that he has their full support in moving ahead on GMO labeling,” said Martin Dagoberto, co-founder of Massachusetts Right to Know GMOs.

Prominent members of the Westport business community, including Buzzard’s Bay Brewery and Gooseberry Natural Foods, advocated on behalf of a consumer’s basic right to transparency throughout the food industry. Local supporters also include Gray’s Daily Grind, Partner’s Village Store, Village Pizza and Westport Rivers Vineyard. In the letter, they write that mandatory GMO labeling is both an issue of consumer rights and economic justice, citing the limited pool of people who have the means to regularly buy organic produce and research the contents of their food.

“It is the authority of the consumer to make informed choices that is at stake here,” said Bill Braun of Ivory Silo Farm and Seed Project in Westport. “If the industry truly believes that GMOs are the only way to feed the world, one would imagine that they would have no problem telling people.  Since they are already repackaging for dozens of other countries worldwide, it doesn’t seem a tall order to add a line to their labels in the U.S.”

“Farmers will continue to grow what people want to eat,” said Averyl Adrade at Healthy Futures Farm, also in Westport. “GMO labeling simply gives people the power of choice – ultimately, it’s better for consumers and better for our businesses.”

Read the Jan. 28 letter from a Westport farmer: http://dighton.wickedlocal.com/article/20160128/OPINION/160125755

Read the Jan. 28 letter from a Westport farmer: http://dighton.wickedlocal.com/article/20160128/OPINION/160125755

The strong showing of local support voiced in the letter mirrors the support at the State House; bipartisan support for the bill currently stands at 155 out of 200 state legislators, with more than 450 coalition partners supporting GMO labeling across the Commonwealth. As Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut have already all passed their own GMO labeling laws, Massachusetts is the next New England state poised to take action on the GMO labeling issue.

“The Massachusetts GMO labeling bill has a record amount of bipartisan support. Americans deserve the same right that people in 64 other countries enjoy,” said Dagoberto. “Right now Massachusetts has the opportunity to join with its neighbors and set a national standard for GMO labeling.”

The letter to the committee and the list of signers, as well as the full list of legislative and business endorsements can be found at marighttoknow.org/openletter. For more information on the coalition visit: marighttoknow.org or Facebook.

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MA Coalition for GMO Labeling and legislative champions call on Massachusetts Congressional delegation to vote against DARK Act

Proposed federal law would undercut state efforts to address GMO labeling

DARK_PR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2015

Contact: Conor Yunits, 617.695.0369conor@libertysquaregroup.com

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.

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