Boston, MA – On June 11th, elected officials will hear public input on proposed legislation requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods (also known as “GMO's”). Just days earlier, Connecticut passed first-in-the-nation GMO labeling legislation, which requires other states to adopt similar laws before it takes effect. A group called “Massachusetts Right to Know GMOs” is now mobilizing other groups of advocates across the state to speak in support of labeling at the upcoming hearing.
“National polls consistently show that more than 90% of Americans want to know if their food’s been genetically modified. This is a right that people in 50 other countries already enjoy,” said Martin Dagoberto, an organizer with MA Right to Know GMOs. The group is part of a national coalition of 37 state labeling initiatives, which has been working to pass legislation across the country. “Connecticut is leading the U.S. in this movement towards a more democratic and transparent food system, and here in Massachusetts, we have a chance to join them and help make this happen, ” Dagoberto said.
Connecticut’s new GMO labeling bill includes what is called a “trigger clause.” It will not go into effect until at least four other states pass similar legislation, including at least one bordering state and enough states in the North East to total 20 million people. As a result, the pressure for Massachusetts to follow suit and produce a similar law this legislative session has increased.
Activists are coordinating expert testimonies to accompany the increase in of vocal public support from people across the state. Among those planning to testify at the hearing on June 11th, include Dean Cycon, CEO of Dean’s Beans, award-winning author and recent recipient of the “Nobel Prize for Business.” He says, “as an organic and fair trade coffee roaster, I am the bridge between the farmer and the consumer. We find that consumers demand honesty and transparency in labeling and they want to know if pesticides, herbicides, and genetic modification have affected their foods. Our consumers have a right to know, and we have an obligation to give them that information.”
Several other notable figures and experts have expressed support for GMO labeling legislation, and will be delivering testimonies at the upcoming hearing. “Ben & Jerry's is proud to stand with the growing consumer movement for transparency and the right to know what’s in our food supply by supporting mandatory GMO labeling legislation.” reads a statement on the company’s website. Representatives of the well known ice cream company will be attending the hearing to deliver testimony as well as some “GMO-free” ice cream. The company is in the process of phasing out all genetically modified ingredients by the end of the year.
A recent New York Times article (Seeking Food Ingredients That Aren’t Gene-Altered, May 26, 2013) explains how, along with awareness of the possible environmental and health risks related to GMO foods, market demand for non-GMO ingredients has also increased exponentially in recent months. Supporters of mandatory GMO labeling argue that such transparency requirements will increase consumer awareness and demand for traditional crops and develop new markets for small, independent farmers in Massachusetts and across the country.