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February 22nd, 2013

Field Notes from the Campaign to Label GE Foods: New Jersey

Assembly Members Linda Stender and David Wolfe with GE Labeling activists (FWW’s Jim Walsh back left) at the New Jersey Statehouse

By Seth Gladstone

Of the many busy days at the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton, February 21 stood out. Legislators and hurried staffers weaved through the crowded hallways from committee hearings to caucus meetings and back. Lobbyists and reporters moved from hushed conversations to new hushed conversations. And activists devoted to causes ranging from gun control to education reform to Lou Gehrig’s Disease gathered in meeting rooms and offices to press their cases with lawmakers.

But perhaps the broadest and most diverse group of activists at the Statehouse that day were gathered for a single, united cause: the launch of a statewide campaign seeking legislation requiring the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods in New Jersey. Along with Food & Water Watch, a mix of activists and advocates from environmental, labor, health, student, farming, faith and business organizations were joined to tell legislators and the press, “Let me decide” when it comes to GE foods.

“Over the years, consumers have fought for labeling of calorie counts, fat content and ingredients lists so they can make smarter, healthier choices for their families,” said Jim Walsh, Food & Water Watch’s Eastern Region Director. “But as food production technology evolves, so should our food labeling. Consumers have a right to know which products on market shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients. In short, let us decide.”

Amanda Nesheiwat, a student leader with NJ Sustainable Collegiate Partners, echoed Jim’s sentiment. “Just as we label food with allergy warnings, we should label GE foods. The health risks tied to GE foods are reason enough not to give corporations the power to dictate the decisions that consumers should be able to make on their own,” she said.

 Joining the activists at the Statehouse were two state legislators representing two different political parties, both pledging their commitment to do all they could among their peers to move GE labeling legislation in the coming weeks and months. Assembly Members David Wolfe (R) and Linda Stender (D) both spoke passionately about their own personal motivations – family health, constituency health, and community health – for working hard to make a GE labeling law a reality in New Jersey.

 On a busy day at the Statehouse, optimism ran strong that New Jersey might become the first state in the union to label genetically engineered foods. The campaign marches on.

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