The latest on GMO labeling

Below is another update from POLITICO (4/14/17). As soon as there is a way for people to participate in the rule-making process, we’ll post details here and send it out our lists!…

PERDUE’S GENETICALLY MODIFIED RULEMAKING: Should Sonny Perdue be confirmed as the next secretary of Agriculture, it will fall to him to end the biggest food fight of the past several years: GMO labeling. Congress passed a law last summer instructing USDA to finalize a federal disclosure standard for the presence of what it dubbed bioengineered ingredients, and gave the department until July 2018 to get it done. Lawmakers gave a definition of genetically modified ingredients and instructed USDA to allow companies to use a symbol, label or electronic disclosure to identify them. But Congress punted to USDA on a slew of issues, including what the symbol on the package denoting GMO ingredients should look like and the amount of genetically engineered contents a product must contain to trigger labeling – all of which will be left to Perdue to decide.

To be sure, he won’t be starting from scratch. Former Secretary Tom Vilsack made serious headway in crafting the rules before leaving office. When the Trump administration moved into the White House, it had waiting a notice seeking comment on what the rule should look like, though it has never been made public. And a study the law requires on access to information provided by electronic disclosures is already underway – a USDA spokesman tells MA that it is set to be completed by the July 28 deadline laid out by Congress.

But Perdue will have just 15 months to issue a proposal, take what are likely to be lengthy comments and put a rule in place. “They are being very cautious about waiting for the boss to get confirmed,” a pro-labeling advocate said. “This will be one of the things he spends a lot of time on, more than he should.”

In his favor: Everyone is tired of the fight. Food companies took a beating from consumers over GMO labeling, and now they’re primarily interested in getting the fight behind them. “We were comfortable in the end with how the bill came out of Congress,” said Andrew Walmsley, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “The ask [to the administration] is to follow the law, and so far we’ve heard a lot about this administration about following the law.”
Originally posted, here: https://secure.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-agriculture/2017/04/perdues-genetically-modified-rulemaking-219780

What’s up with GMO labeling?… (good question)

Hey folks. We’ve been waiting since September for the comment period to begin for the federal “GMO labeling law” which was passed last July, and the date just kept getting pushed back… Now with the new administration in place, it’s uncertain when it might begin (see below). We’ll let you know as soon as it does!…

GMO labeling fans, Trump just slowed your roll

GMO LABELING FANS, TRUMP JUST SLOWED YOUR ROLL: President Donald Trump has offered federal agencies a regulatory 2-for-1 deal they can’t refuse — and it’ll come at a cost for some players in the food industry, Pro Ag’s Helena Bottemiller Evich reports. Trump’s latest executive order, signed Monday, cracks down on federal regulations under the guise of helping small business, requiring that two regulations be slashed for every new one that is undertaken.

 Here’s the upshot: While the full impact of Trump’s order is far from clear at this vantage point, regulations required by the GMO labeling bill are a prime example of how the White House action will likely serve as deep mud to the tractor tires of rulemaking.
Read the full article from POLITICO, here:
http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-agriculture/2017/01/gmo-labeling-fans-trump-just-slowed-your-roll-218500

 

 

Activists to Congress: This New GMO Labeling Law “Doesn’t Pass the Laugh Test”

Read the full article by Tracy Frisch, here.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined other elected officials and activists on July 1 to celebrate the start of Vermont’s new law requiring labeling of genetically modified foods. The achievement would prove short-lived, as Congress voted later in July to nullify the Vermont law and any others like it.   (Photo: Roger Crowley / Vermont Public Interest Research Group)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined other elected officials and activists on July 1 to celebrate the start of Vermont’s new law requiring labeling of genetically modified foods. The achievement would prove short-lived, as Congress voted later in July to nullify the Vermont law and any others like it. (Photo: Roger Crowley / Vermont Public Interest Research Group)

This was supposed to be the watershed moment for activists around the region who had long campaigned for labeling of genetically modified foods.

On July 1, Vermont became the first state in the nation to require labels on food products with genetically engineered ingredients. The state’s law, which the Legislature passed by an overwhelming margin in 2014, was the result of years of effort by grassroots activists who spoke out forcefully and jammed public hearings to demand the right to know what was in their food.

As Vermont’s law staved off a court challenge and moved toward implementation this summer, activists in New York and Massachusetts gained a new burst of momentum in their effort to pass similar labeling laws in those states.

And as the effective date of Vermont’s law neared, a series of large food companies announced that, rather than create separate labels for one small state, they would simply start nationwide labeling of products with genetically modified ingredients. A few companies also made plans to reformulate their products to omit these ingredients.

But in mid-July, Congress rode to the aid of processed food, pesticide and biotechnology companies, which had bitterly fought Vermont’s labeling law. With no hearings and little debate, first the Senate and then the House passed a much weaker federal law for disclosing genetically modified ingredients in food—and barred states, including Vermont, from setting their own labeling requirements. President Obama signed the federal measure into law on July 29.

Read the full article: http://wap.inthesetimes.com/rural-america/entry/19539/gmo-labeling-congress-corporate-agribusiness-and-the-dark-act

As manufacturers comply with Vermont’s GMO labeling bill, neighboring states move to back them up!

Was that so hard? :) Look for labeled M&Ms and other products to begin showing up in stores any day!

Look for labeled M&Ms and other products to begin showing up in stores any day now!

Despite federal inaction, food packages bearing the words “produced with genetic engineering” are beginning to arrive on shelves across the United States! Major manufacturers are choosing to label nationwide in response to the GMO labeling law slated to go into effect in Vermont on July 1, 2016. Vermont has effectively set the standard for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food ingredients.

Several neighboring states are on the verge of joining with Vermont, Connecticut and Maine by reinforcing the standards and expectations for mandatory disclosure of GE food ingredients. Progress at the state level will continue until a federal mandatory GMO labeling standard which meets or exceeds the Vermont standard is adopted.

In Massachusetts, a record-breaking bipartisan coalition of state legislators has cosponsored their GMO labeling bill (155 of 200 total legislators as cosponsors). Nearly 500 local farms, businesses and organizations across the state have joined the coalition in support of the legislation. Tens of thousands of residents have made their voices heard through petitions, hearings, lobby days and call/email campaigns and the broad majority of legislators are listening. The bill was passed unanimously out of its first committee in March 2016 and is awaiting a vote on the House floor before the legislative session ends in July.

Rhode Island’s GMO labeling bill has the support of the nearly its entire House of Representatives and a majority of the Senate. New York, Minnesota and other states are expected to follow shortly. Connecticut is also working to remove the “trigger” that has prevented implementation up to this point. Discussion in Maine surrounds a ballot initiative to strip the trigger from their bill, as well.

Most reforms start closest to those who are in need of it. 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. State GMO labeling campaigns have been successful for this reason: a diverse, passionate and vocal constituency has been mobilized by a coordinated network of grassroots activists, overwhelming the influence and reach of industry lobbyists.

Transparency opponents will continue to cry wolf and muddy the waters, saying that “GMO labeling is meaningless and unnecessary” and even that it will somehow “destroy the food system.” At the end of the day, however, consumers have demonstrated that this information is important to them, and the issue is clearly not going away. Whether or not the old adage “the customer is always right” holds water any more, the populist tenor of today’s political climate is undeniable and growing. If anything this state-led movement for food labeling transparency is an historical test of our democracy, and the more perceptive manufacturers have already begun to move where the winds are headed.

 

GMO labeling advocates cheer Campbell Soup decision to support mandatory labeling of GMO products and withdraw from coalitions that oppose labeling

Campbell rebukes Grocery Manufacturers Association

campbellsTY

Boston, MA ­– GMO Labeling advocates cheered Campbell Soup’s decision to support mandatory labeling laws and withdraw from coalitions that are opposing them. Campbell Soup is a member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has fiercely opposed mandatory GMO labeling efforts across the country, and Campbell’s withdrawal will mark the industry’s changing tide.

According to official documents, as analyzed by the Environmental Working Group, the food and biotech industries have spent $143 million in lobbying expenditures that mentioned GMO labeling since 2013. As major food companies begin to change gears to respond to consumer demand for this information, Campbell has decided to label all of their products containing genetically engineered ingredients by 2018 and is calling on the government to require mandatory labeling.

“Food manufacturers are sick of wasting money for the sake of the big GMO pushers like Monsanto. Fighting transparency is a lost cause.” said Martin Dagoberto of MA Right to Know GMOs. “The People have demonstrated that they want to know what they’re eating,” Dagoberto continued, “and while we applaud Campbell’s move to label voluntarily, they are the first to do so in nearly 20 years. We need mandatory labeling so that anyone can pick up any food product and know if it contains genetically engineered ingredients.”

The Massachusetts Coalition for GMO Labeling also reiterated its call for passage of state legislation to require labeling.

“It’s great that Campbell is calling on the federal government to require mandatory labeling,” said Deirdre Cummings, legislative director of MassPIRG. “However, we know that change like this usually begins with the states, and strong state action is the best way to protect consumers and to set the bar for labeling. Mandatory labeling legislation in Massachusetts has 155 co-sponsors, and its time to pass this bill.”

Last fall, the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture held a public hearing for H. 3242An Act establishing the genetic engineering transparency food and seed labeling act.The high turnout was in line with the high level of support within the State House; the legislation has 155 cosponsors and more than 400 coalition partners supporting GMO labeling across the Commonwealth. Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut have all passed their own GMO labeling laws. The legislation has not yet been released from committee, and the Massachusetts Coalition for GMO Labeling today again urged the committee chairs to release the bill.

The bipartisan legislative effort in Massachusetts has been led by Representatives Ellen Story (D- Amherst) and Todd Smola (R-Palmer), and on the Senate side by Senators Joan Lovely (D-Salem) and Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “This is about giving people in Massachusetts good information so they can make a decision themselves. Now is the time,” said Smola in a recent social media post.

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 www.facebook.com/MARightToKnowGMOs/.

###

Take action now to keep the MA GMO labeling bill moving!

Statewide GMO labeling summit – Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Thanks to your involvement, our campaign to label GMOs in Massachusetts is about to reach a climax. We have until July to get our state GMO labeling bill (H.3242) passed, so we figured this would be a good time to meet in-person to discuss how we can work together to make GMO labeling a reality.

Please join our campaign organizers, local leaders and coalition partners at the Northeast Organic Farming Association (Mass. Chapter) Winter Conference in Worcester on January 16th for a special GMO labeling summit.

  • Meet face to face to learn the latest updates and ways to get involved with the GMO labeling campaign.

  • Attend the full conference to learn about the incredible work of the NOFA network!

NOFAwc2016_fb
GMO Labeling Summit at NOFA/Mass Winter Conference

Saturday, January 16th, 1:30 PM – 3:30 pm (Optional lunch conversation at 12:15 pm, with full conference starts at 9 am – highly recommended)

Worcester State University

Full Conference page: nofamass.org/events/wc

Share the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1077145465631015/

 

The all-day conference features 70 workshops and exhibitors; an all-day seminar and keynote speeches with Ben Burkett, family farmer and coordinator of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives; children’s conference and more.  This conference is a high-energy, solutions-oriented annual gathering, a fantastic chance to gain some new gardening/farming skills, connect with other food activists and farmers and to get excited about the coming growing season!

 

We are proud to deepen our ongoing partnership with NOFA/Mass by co-hosting our GMO Labeling summit during the afternoon of the conference.

 

To apply group membership rates, use this discount code GMO and register as a NOFA/Mass member (our activists are considered members for this registration). Registration price includes a fantastic organic buffet lunch. Please don’t let lack of funds stop you from coming, as scholarships are available.  We will start the conversation during lunch, but if people only want to come for the actual meeting at 1:30pm and not the conference, please contact Marty by January 1st to confirm (marty@marighttoknow.org).  We can also work with you to arrange ride-shares; find conference carpool shares here: http://bit.ly/1OUjmBs

See you in January!

MA Coalition for GMO labeling cheers Vermont court decision

VTruling

April 28, 2015
Boston, MA

Today, a coalition of consumer, community, farming and public health organizations working to pass a GMO food labeling law cheered a decision by the United States District Court for the District of Vermont upholding the nation’s first GMO labeling law.

“This is an incredible day for American consumers,” said Martin Dagoberto, of MA Right to Know GMOs. “The court ruled that it’s in the general interest of state governments to require disclosure and labeling of genetically modified ingredients. We couldn’t agree more, and we believe this will be a turning point in the right to know movement.”

“The courts have agreed with our basic message, which is that consumers deserve transparency around something as fundamental as the food they eat and feed their families,” said Deirdre Cummings of MASSPIRG. “Now that the public interest of the right to know has been affirmed, it’s time for Massachusetts to pass its own GMO labeling law and give consumers the opportunity to make informed decisions.”

The ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont found that there is compelling interest to provide consumers the ability to make informed choice based on health, environmental or religious concerns, and struck down an attempt by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to delay implementation of the law. The Vermont law is scheduled to take effect in July 2016.

Of particular interest in the ruling was the argument from Judge Christine Reiss that, “Plaintiffs lose both traction and credibility in their further contention that any State interest in “catering to personal, political, and religious views that reject science is neither legitimate nor governmental” and that, because the State allegedly “has no monetary skin in the game, there is not even a financial interest in the enforcement of [Act 120].” The safety of food products, the protection of the environment, and the accommodation of religious beliefs and practices are all quintessential governmental interests, as is the State’s desire “to promote informed consumer decision-making.”

Foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients are commonly known as GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Vermont passed the nation’s first GMO labeling law in May 2014 and was immediately sued by the Grocery Manufacturers Association. This is the first ruling on GMO labeling by the U.S. court system. Maine and Connecticut have also passed labeling laws, and many other states, including Massachusetts, are considering their own bills.

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.

###

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: 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.