Legislative Director, MASSPIRG
Legislative Director, MASSPIRG
Boston, MA – GMO labeling advocates tomorrow will celebrate the implementation of Vermont’s first-in-the-nation mandatory GMO labeling law and again call on Massachusetts legislators to follow Vermont’s lead and the will of the vast majority of consumers in passing a similar law.
The passage of the Vermont bill in 2014, and its subsequent withstanding of several legal challenges from the agrichemical and biotech industries, sent waves throughout the food industry, prompting industry giants including Campbell’s Soup Company, Mars and Pepsi Co. to label products containing genetically modified ingredients in order to comply. Connecticut and Maine have passed similar laws, but those include a trigger provision requiring Massachusetts or other North East states to pass similar bills before the laws will take effect.
In Massachusetts, The Genetic Engineering Transparency Food Labeling Act (H.4156) would require clear labeling on the packages of food products that contain genetically engineered (GMO) ingredients. Although it was advanced by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture in March and has the support of over 75% of the legislature, it has not yet been scheduled for a vote by the full House of Representatives or Senate. The bill is currently awaiting action by the House.
“When the Vermont GMO labeling law takes effect tomorrow it will mark a huge victory for consumer rights,” said Deirdre Cummings of MASSPIRG. “It is long past time Massachusetts legislators voted to pass our own labeling law to further advance an effort that has already brought significant new information to consumers across New England. A Massachusetts bill will add consistency and clarity to the labeling effort and join with Vermont to create a national standard.”
While labeling efforts have advanced at the state level, lobbyists from the agrichemical and biotech industries have been working in Washington to preempt Vermont’s law with a federal bill that contains no mandatory standards for GMO labeling, and instead allows companies to use symbols, QR codes, or 1-800 numbers in place of a straightforward label on the package. The federal bill exempts vast categories of food products including GMO-derived sugars and oils, discriminates against poor and rural consumers, violates state sovereignty and provides no penalties for non-compliance.
“Some of the world’s biggest food companies have already taken steps to comply with the Vermont labeling law and share real information about GMO ingredients,” said Martin Dagoberto of Massachusetts Right to Know GMO. “We cannot allow weak federal legislation derived from backroom deals in Congress to upend the tireless work of GMO labeling champions and volunteers, when over 90% of consumers are in favor of clear, consistent labeling.”
Dagoberto added, “The Massachusetts Coalition for GMO Labelling calls on the legislature to pass the Genetic Engineering Transparency and Food Labeling Act and join with Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont to set a national standard for required labeling that is clear, simple, and on the package.”