The New Year has just arrived and a topic that should be on everyone’s radar is GMO labeling. After last year’s announcement of the release of MA-based biotech company, Aquabounty’s, genetically engineered (GMO) salmon and the push for a watered down voluntary federal standard, the issue of state-led GMO labeling continues to be a top priority.
Let’s talk GMO labeling initiatives. We have a bill in the House (H3242) that would require the mandatory labeling of food sold containing GE (genetically engineered), also known as GMO ingredients, here in Massachusetts to have a clear, on package label. This way consumers of all demographics can pick up a product and know whether or not they were about to purchase genetically engineered food. This will help everyone make informed decisions without having to do hours worth of research or requiring them to have access to a smartphone.
MA Right to Know GMOs is a statewide network of consumer advocates declaring our fundamental right to know if our food contains ingredients derived from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). They are working with Citizens for GMO Labeling, which is a national grassroots movement of parents, farmers and citizens dedicated to regaining our basic right to know what we are eating and feeding our families. Alongside many other advocate groups we are making great strides here in the Bay State.
Our neighboring state of Vermont has a GMO labeling law that goes into effect this July. Connecticut and Maine both have labeling bills passed but need several other states to pass labeling initiatives before theirs will take effect. Many other states, including New York and Rhode Island and nearly 30 other states are joining the movement to label GE ingredients and filing bills with their respective state governments. The wave of change is spreading and Americans are taking back both their food supply and ability to make conscious decisions about how they choose to eat.
Massachusetts is poised to follow our neighboring states in setting the standards for a mandatory federal GMO labeling bill by passing their own state initiative. With the support of 155 out of 200 statelegislatures our bill should be next to help set the bar for a mandatory federal labeling requirement, but not without the help of the state's constituents. The “noise” we generate as concerned consumers by writing emails to our state reps, calling their offices, having meetings with them, and through social media ensures that they continually remain aware of how critical an issue labeling is to us, but we can’t let up now.
The Massachusetts GMO labeling bill is currently in the Environmental, Natural Resources and Agricultural Committee and we could use your help getting it out to the next committee. It is the most popular bill in the State House with bipartisan support so we have an undeniable opportunity to make real progress in GMO labeling. However, the bill will not go anywhere if we don’t keep friendly pressure on our legislators through the grassroots. Our latest action alert, which can be found on our website, marighttoknow.org, has constituents of these districts calling, emailing, and meeting with the committee members asking them to move the bill from committee as soon as possible.
True labeling champions Representative Story (D-Amherst) and Rep. Smola (R-Warren) have been by our side since the beginning. We believe that the folks living here in the commonwealth have a basic human right of knowing what they are eating and supporting with their food purchases. At the federal level, Congressman Jim McGovern has been fighting against a voluntary labeling bill that would preempt the states and keep us in the dark forever and he continues to champion mandatory disclosure of GE ingredients.
If you haven’t joined the movement yet there is no better time than the present. We are creating the momentum and still have a little ways to go before we reach the finish line this July when the session formally ends. Now is the time to contact your legislators to let them know we want labeling. Follow MA Right to Know on facebook for local events, action alerts, and current events and visit the website for a full calendar of mothly events, educational information, and ways to get more involved.
You can find us this weekend, January 16, at the NOFA Winter Conference. We will be hosting a discussion lunch followed by a workshop. Visit either MA Right to Know’s webpage or nofamass.org for full details and to register.
Rebecca Peters is a campaign organizer for Citizens for GMO Labeling working here in Massachusetts for MA Right to Know GMOs. A long time activist, she grew up locally and is raising a family on the South Shore. Mother of one with one on the way, she is a small business owner and dedicated to providing a better environment for our future generations.