A bill that would give consumers clear labels for GMO food ingredients last week cleared the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture, a critical first step on the road to passage. The committee voted unanimously to advance the bill. H. 3242, The Genetic Engineering Transparency Food Labeling Act, would require clear labeling of food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients (commonly called “GMOs”).
New England Farmers Union applauds the move by House Chair Paul Schmid (D-Westport) and Senate Chair Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) to advance the bill, which enjoys strong bipartisan support across both chambers of the Massachusetts legislature. While Farmers Union does not take a position for or against biotechnology, the member-driven organization does favor transparency in labeling, which more than 90 percent of the population supports.
Similar laws have recently passed in Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont, which is the first to go into effect in July. Supporters cautioned that there is still work to do on the bill as it moves through the legislative process; including making sure the bill mirrors what other early adopters have done and takes effect shortly after Vermont’s law is implemented this July.
Congress is currently considering a voluntary GMO labeling bill, opposed by consumer groups across the country, including every member of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation. The bill, H.R.1599 – Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, was advanced by the Senate Agricultural Committee last week, and could emerge for a vote in the full Senate soon. It would prohibit the FDA from adopting mandatory GMO food labeling and preempt states from doing the same. Instead, the bill establishes only a voluntary labeling program.
A full list of co-sponsors on the Massachusetts bill can be found at the website of our partners at MA Right to Know: http://marighttoknow.org/endorsements.
In other Massachusetts news, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has issued a request for comments on its draft Pollinator Plan. If you have thoughts or feedback, please comment by the March 31 deadline. More information, including a link to the plan and contact information, is in our recent blog post here.