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!

 

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