Mass. GMO Labeling Supporters Announce Progress On Legislative Front

Connecticut was the first state in the country to pass legislation requiring food containing GMOs be labeled as such. Pictured here last year, residents rally in support of the law. (CT Senate Democrats/Flickr)

Connecticut was the first state in the country to pass legislation requiring food containing GMOs be labeled as such. Seen here last year, residents rally in support of the law. (CT Senate Democrats/Flickr)

BOSTON — Supporters of GMO labeling legislation pending on Beacon Hill will gather at the State House Wednesday to announce they have the support of a majority of lawmakers in the House and Senate to pass the bill.

More than 100 members of the House and about two dozen senators have signed group letters to the leaders of their respective chambers urging positive action on the GMO labeling bill. The Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture voted favorably on the bill in March. The proposed law would require all packaged foods and seeds containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such.

Three New England states have passed GMO labeling statutes. But the laws in Connecticut and Maine, and the proposed law in Massachusetts, can’t go into effect until a total of five states enacts similar laws. Some of the states have to border each other, and they have to encompass a population of at least 20 million people in the northeast part of the country. Vermont recently passed a GMO labeling law that has no such “trigger clause” and therefore will be the first to take effect.

Rep. Ellen Story of Amherst has sponsored the legislation here for several years.

“But this is by far the most momentum,” Story said. “The actions that have gone on in other states in New England have helped tremendously. We’d like to be part of a movement.”

Martin Dagoberto, an organizer with MA Right To Know GMOs, stressed that the proposed labels would be a simple addition to a food package’s nutrition information.

“It’s not a warning label. It’s not a neon skull and crossbones,” Dagoberto said. “It’s one line of text that’s increasingly important to people across the country and across Massachusetts.”

Opponents in the food industry say labeling should be handled at the federal level, by the Food and Drug Administration.

In a March 2014 interview on WBUR, Rich Bonanno of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation said different labeling laws from state to state puts some food producers at a competitive disadvantage.

“Any time you try to deal with a national issue on a state-by-state basis, it usually comes back and ends up hurting local producers,” Bonanno said.

Bonanno expressed concern that the proposed labels might cause unnecessary alarm for consumers.

“We certainly have an appreciation for the concern of the public in wanting to know about their food supply, but to me a lot of it’s based on just a lot of hype and hysteria that you can’t find in the scientific community,” he said.

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  • Tagg Heurer

    Since plunder destroys liberty and stalls civilization’s advance, it leads to even more demands to redistribute even more wealth, thus accelerating the downward spiral.

  • Lawrence

    Hopefully, next, there will be a bill to make GMOs illegal, not just labeled.

    • Johan Corby

      You really have no idea what you’re talking about, do you?

    • Clifford Ageloff

      GMOs are perfectly safe; not sure why anyone would want to make them illegal. Not a single peer-reviewed study has ever shown any harm from GMOs.

      • firefox

        There are no long term human consumption studies on GMOs – none!! Monsanto did not do any safety studies stating that the costs would be too high, yet are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fight labelling laws and the consumer’s right to know. GMOs are not only UNPROVEN and UNSAFE, but their nature is one of an INVASIVE SPECIES that spreads its POISONED DNA to natural plants by uncontrollable cross pollination thereby destroying what we know are truly safe and healthy natural plant stocks. GMO foods must be labelled and everything done to stop Monsanto’s profit at any cost operation. GMO’s are man’s knowledge and greed far exceeding his wisdom.

        • Clifford Ageloff

          You really have no idea what you are talking about, quite obviously. Not a single thing you said is true nor can it be proven true. GMOs don’t spread DNA but it’s in your DNA to spread lies. “Natural plant stocks” ? None are used in agriculture. Which stocks are you referring to that have been ‘poisoned’ through a mechanism that does not even exist? How can GMOs be BOTH ‘unproven’ and ‘unsafe’. I just bet your not a scientist but a parrot. GMO papayas are safe and saved an industry. GMO squash – safe. GMO cotton, GMO eggplant – benefiting millions. New GMOs will save Florida’s orange crop and new GMO wheat will stop naturally occurring wheat ‘rust’ without the use of chemicals. GMOs are the future of sustainable agriculture. We already have labeling. If something is ‘organic’ or ‘non-gmo’ it can be labeled so.

    • gotham77

      Ah, yes…and I’ll bet next you’d like to outlaw fish farms, right? Let’s keep driving up the cost of groceries.

      After all, the poor can just eat cake, right?

    • Clifford Ageloff

      Perhaps we should make homosexuality illegal until it is proven safe. Some people believe, after all, that it is not only a sin but harmful to children.

  • Lawrence

    Of course they want these laws to be decided by the Federal level, where they can simply bribe one person and have it take effect in all the states.

    How and why is it that this legislation is only in effect depending on the actions taken in other, separate states? Who was responsible for putting such unreasonable restrictions on this bill, which could render it meaningless. Who?

    • Viriato77

      It is meaningless by virtue of it’s very nature; 1) in that GM is a technique not an ingredient, 2) GM is as safe if not safer than conventionally grown counterparts, 3) a label indicating “GM”-ness is meaningless without knowing what the specific traits are (see point 1). We label things to protect the general public, not to indulge the ideology of a privileged few.

      • Lawrence

        Can you explain why it is that the entire EU, does not allow foods that have been modified genetically in laboratories to be their countries?

        And can you specifically point to independent studies that prove their safety or are you just talking out of your mouth?

        We do not label to “protect the general public.” We also label when things have good ingredients like Vitamin C for instance. If the public wants to know when or if they are eating foods that were modified in a laboratory, then they have that right.

        But the more important question is, what do they have to hide? Why are they so resistant to letting people know where the food came from and how it was made?

      • Lawrence

        In February 2008 the French government used the safeguard clause to ban the cultivation of MON 810 after Senator Jean-François Le Grand, chairman of a committee set up to evaluate biotechnology, said there were “serious doubts” about the safety of the product.[11]

  • mem_somerville

    What a giant embarrassment to the MA scientific community. We are holding a collective face-palm later today over beers and cheese snacks, which have been made with cloned enzymes.

    • Aidan Benelle

      Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite ‘danger that public policy’ could itself become the – captive of a scientific-technological elite.~ Eisenhower

      When your ‘industry science’ infests our regulatory bodies and tramples on the rights of the consumer to know what’s in their food, you have become the scientific-technological elite.

    • mem_somerville

      In case anyone finds this piece later, I wanted to link to a letter exchange I had with a MA politician on this topic. Dear Legislator, About that GMO Labeling bill…

      And @aidanbenelle:disqus : you stick to your “conspiracy theories” and I’ll stick to the actual science and facts, ok?

  • gotham77

    I demand that any food produced by anybody with the name “Michael” must be labeled as such. There’s no scientific evidence that food products made by people with that name are dangerous, BUT I HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • mem_somerville

    Anyone stumbling upon this from the future should see:
    How Scare Tactics on GMO Foods Hurt Everybody. By a plant scientist who knows her stuff.

  • Aidan Benelle

    93% of Americans when polled support GMO labeling.

    In 2014, more than 60 bills have been introduced in 23 states requiring GMO labeling or prohibiting genetically engineered foods.

    Now its time for Kraft, Monsanto, DuPont, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association to get out of the way and allow the American consumer to have the same rights

    To GMO labeling and food transparency as – 64 other countries do today.

  • hyperzombie

    Yeah, GMO trees, where can I get them and how soon can they be shipped.

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