Mark Lynas, the British environmentalist and author, recently wrote in the Washington Post that activists should not be more convincing than scientists when it comes to issues like GMO food. But in Massachusetts, activists from organizations such as the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group and MA Right to Know GMOs aren’t letting such concerns stop them.
Instead, they’ve been popping champagne corks because they’ve convinced three out of four Massachusetts lawmakers to sign on as sponsors to House Docket 369, “An Act establishing the genetic engineering transparence food and seed labeling act.” They’ve enlisted 125 state representatives and 29 state senators to help sponsor the GMO-labeling bill, for a total of 154 out of 200 state lawmakers.
“We are extremely lucky to have so many incredible legislators supporting this effort here in Massachusetts,” said Martin Dagoberto, of MA Right to Know GMOs. “The level of support from both the House and Senate, as well as from residents from across the state, speaks to the momentum behind passing a GMO labeling bill this session.”
New England states have been a hotspot for GMO food-labeling bills in the past. Vermont has the only standalone law, which is being challenged in federal court. Maine and Connecticut have adopted GMO laws which are contingent on enough surrounding states passing similar laws in order to take effect.
This legislative session, neighboring Rhode Island is again considering two GMO-labeling bills, Senate Bill 549 and Senate Bill 557. They differ in their implementation dates.
SB 549 would become law on Jan. 1, 2017. SB 557 would not become effective until four other states, including one adjacent to Rhode Island with a combined population totaling 20 million, adopt similar laws.
Except for the assignment of the bill number and title, the actual language for the Massachusetts bill is not yet available.
Outside the Northeast region, the campaign for state-required GMO labeling has fallen short again and again. Four states — California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — have now seen voters shoot down GMO-labeling initiatives, usually by slim margins after massive spending by the anti-labeling side. Legislative bills outside the Northeast have usually been quickly killed by agriculture committees.
After hearing oral arguments in January, a federal judge in Vermont has taken under advisement motions ranging from a temporary or permanent injunction against the labeling law to dismissal of the lawsuit against it. The main parties in that case are the Grocery Manufacturing Association and the State of Vermont.
Lynas, a former anti-GMO activist whose mind was changed by science, warns that “science deniers are on the march” on issues such as climate, vaccines and GMO food. However, TV’s Bill Nye (the Science Guy) recently indicated that he, too, may have changed his mind about GMO food after talking with more scientists about it, including some at Monsanto.© Food Safety News