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Boston – GMO labeling advocates at the Massachusetts State House today displayed a variety of food products that label their use of genetically engineered ingredients, a clear sign that Vermont’s law is already having an impact on consumer information. The advocates called on Massachusetts legislators to pass pending GMO labeling legislation and further strengthen the labeling effort.
Today’s display included a variety of products including Lay’s Potato Chips, Doritos, Pepsi, and M&Ms. Each package includes the words “Produced (or Partially Produced) with Genetic Engineering. The items are produced by Mars, Pepsi and Frito-Lay, all of which announced their intention to label products earlier this year in response to Vermont’s first-in-the-nation mandatory labeling law.
“What’s clear from these examples is that the various arguments made by labeling opponents simply don’t hold water,” said Deirdre Cummings of MASSPIRG. “A GMO label did not increase prices, food manufacturers did not refuse to distribute their product to VT, nor is the label inflammatory. These labels simply provide consumers with additional information, alongside other information, which allows consumers to make the food choices that are right for them.”
Most of the products on display were purchased last week at the Roche Bros. in Downtown Crossing. Notably, a number of identical items purchased from the same store at the same time were not labeled. For example, of two bags of Spicy Doritos pulled off the same shelf, only one included the GMO wording.
“It’s great that these products are labeled, but already the voluntary system has created issues with consistency and clarity,” said Martin Dagoberto of MA Right to Know GMO. “If a consumer picks up one bag of chips that is not labeled, they don't know if it doesn't contain GMOs or if it’s simply not packaged to sell in Vermont. That’s one reason why it’s so important for Massachusetts to pass its own labeling law and to continue to move us toward a meaningful national standard before transparency opponents pass watered-down legislation in D.C.”
The Massachusetts bill, H. 4156, The Genetic Engineering Transparency Food Labeling Act, would require clear labeling of food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients. It was amended and advanced by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture in March, but has not yet been scheduled for a vote by the full House of Representatives or Senate, despite having the support of more than 75% of members in both chambers and of both parties.
The Massachusetts Coalition for GMO Labeling has been meeting with legislators throughout the spring to continue to push for passage of the law, which would eliminate confusion brought about by a voluntary labeling, and continue to set a standard for other states and the federal government to emulate.
“It is past time for us to catch up with the 64 other countries that have labeled GMO food,” said Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst) “We need to follow Vermont’s courageous lead to give consumers the information that they need.”
“It is the right of all people to know what foods they are buying and how they are produced,” said Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren), a cosponsor of the bill. “The overwhelming response is that people want GMO labeling in Massachusetts. I sincerely hope that H.4156 is scheduled for a vote before the end of this session.”
“The everyday right to be a protector and advocate of our own bodies starts in the home and at the table,” said Kristi Marsh, founder of the Savvy Women’s Alliance. “The right to know and understand how our food was grown - or created- is integral for day to day living. We are hoping Massachusetts will continue to be a leader, representing its people by actively implementing timely informative legislation.”
Following the press conference, GMO labeling volunteers gathered for a “lunch in” on the Common to hear updates, learn more about the issue and share strategies on building support for the bill’s passage.
The Massachusetts Coalition for GMO Labeling will continue working with the bill's sponsors and nearly 500 local farms, businesses and organizations to pass a strong GMO labeling law before the end of the 2016 legislative session.
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