We are witnessing what could be a watershed moment as invigorated GMO labeling initiatives continue to pop up across the country. The discussion started a few years ago when the non- GMO project created a way to identify the absence of GMO ingredients in our food supply. Certifying that products don’t contain GMOs is great, but doesn’t address the 80% of all processed food that consumers are unwittingly eating. As parents across America are clamored for the right to know what is in their food, California and then Washington initiatives were defeated by big outside money interests. Those defeated proposals served the community by fueling the fires of awareness.
After those two defeats, polls were taken and showed that over 90% of all consumers wanted the right to know about GMOs. Across party lines this burning desire is akin to the battle in the 90s when the FDA first enacted food transparency. Since the FDA’s Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) was enacted two decades ago, food package labels have been a battleground between the food industry and consumer interests. There have been battles over labeling allergens, irradiation and country of origin, and now there is a groundswell of state and federal initiatives about to unfold and blossom into a landscape of color! Take a look at the myriad gardens of right-to- know plans and be prepared to water and tend them so they produce fruit.
GMO LABELING LEGISLATIVE CAMPAIGN UPDATE
Connecticut & Maine – GMO labeling bills passed in 2013 with population and consecutive state triggers in place to delay implementation. Connecticut legislators are discussing removing the trigger as it relates to infant formula and baby food.
Vermont – GMO Labeling bill without trigger has already passed State House and the Agriculture Committee in the Senate, with a 4-1 vote. Many believe this to be the best chance for passage in 2014. Follow Vermont Right to Know on Facebook and Toxin Information Project.
Rhode Island – House Health, Education & Welfare hearing on two GMO labeling bills. The bill is going to be substantially amended in Committee. It will also include a trigger provision similar to Connecticut and Maine. A companion bill has been filed in the Senate. Contact Citizens for GMO Labeling (CFGL) for more information.
Massachusetts – The Bay State is in the second year of a two year session. Five bills are currently under consideration. Recently, a bill passed out of the Ag Committee and is described as being similar to Connecticut and Maine. MA Right to Know is your best source of up to date information.
New Hampshire – House defeated strong GMO Labeling bill by 20+ votes (close margin) in January. Senate has now filed a bill as well, but it is likely headed for an interim study. NH Right to Know website has up to date information.
New York – There is a strong coalition working on bills in New York. On February 4, officials held a lobby day in Albany. The group is still debriefing from the event, but it appears to have been a success. At least three co-sponsors have come on board. Contact GMO Free NY to find out how you can get involved.
New Jersey – Last year the New Jersey labeling bill was successfully voted out of committee, but then died at the end of the session. The same bill has been filed again with a lengthy list of co-sponsors, who had signed on last year. GMO Free NJ is your action spot.
Pennsylvania – There are bills currently filed on both the House and Senate side. There is a very robust grass roots movement pushing for the bills to move forward. However, Pennsylvania politics are heavily influenced by Big Ag, and it will be an uphill battle. For now advocates will concentrate on building momentum and make a big push legislatively in 2015/2016. Find out what you can do today at GMO Free Pennsylvania.
Oregon– A proposed ballot measure to require GMO labeling has cleared a big legal hurdle, allowing sponsors to soon begin collecting signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot. The stage may be set for victory in Oregon which is a fiercely independent blue state with a strong food culture. There may be several additional liberal issues on the ballot which will drive progressive turnout. Major national donors and organizations have already committed resources. You can get in touch with the organizers at Oregon GMO Right to Know at www.oregonrighttoknow.org or 206-529-6587.
Colorado – This campaign is organizing to place an initiative on the ballot in November of 2014. Last summer, organizers drafted the title language, implemented the initial fundraising strategy and kicked off coalition-building activities. Despite a challenge by conventional grocery interests, the Colorado Supreme Court, on March 13, affirmed Right to Know Colorado’s ballot title to label GMO foods, clearing the way to begin collecting the 86,105 signatures needed for a 2014 statewide ballot measure. Be a friend of Right to Know Colorado on Facebook and get ready to be involved.
California– has a new Senate Bill 1381 – also known as the California Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. Californians for GE Food Labeling is comprised of 16 groups representing over 500,000 Californians. Rebecca Spector, West Coast director for the Center for Food Safety (CFS) said this bill “more explicitly clarifies liability, provides protections for farmers and retailers, places limits on potential litigation, and clarifies exemptions.” Stay tuned for more activity in the Golden State.
There are many other burgeoning state activities that can be viewed from Citizens for GMO labeling, and we must work towards the same goal in all of them. It’s not about debating the science. It’s about our right to choose what we eat and what we feed our children. Just as an organic farm can’t flourish without attention and vitality, the GMO labeling environment needs your energy and vigor. If you believe in transparency, use your strengths and action to get involved and change the landscape. Tell me what you are doing in your state.