Field Notes from the Campaign to Label GE Foods: New Mexico
After working with allies throughout the state, we were pleased when, in December 2012, New Mexico Senator Peter Wirth pre-filed a proposed amendment to the New Mexico Food Act to require the labeling of genetically engineered food and feed. In just a few weeks, Food & Water Watch and its allies, including La Montañita Co-op, Ole NM, Occupy New Mexico, Edible Santa Fe, Louie Hena of the Tesuque Puebo and Clarissa Duran, member of Seedsavers successfully drummed up grassroots support for Senate Bill 18 with more than 500 petition signatures and an event at the State Capitol Roundhouse widely covered by the press.
Then, on Jan. 31, the GE food labeling bill SB 18 was declared “dead” by its sponsor, Senator Peter Wirth, and by Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. In a Senate floor vote on Wednesday, a 23-17 majority voted to reject Tuesday’s “Do Pass” decision by the Senate Public Affairs Committee (SPAC), effectively killing the bill through a rarely used – some have said unprecedented – procedural tactic.
- Author and food systems expert Mark Winne speaks at a press conference held at the New Mexico Roundhouse on Jan. 18 in support of SB 18 to make GE food labels mandatory.
This was done by a united front of Republicans joined by a faction of pro-GMO Democrats. “YES” in this vote means rejecting the SPAC report. Four out of six Democrats on the Corporations Committee voted to kill SB 18. FWW and allies immediately began the campaign to put pressure on the 23 Senators who voted to kill SB 18 and continue to build broad public support for our right to know.
Although we were defeated in this battle, we are not discouraged and support for mandatory labeling of GE foods has never been greater in New Mexico. On Feb. 7, we conducted a call-in-day where hundreds of New Mexicans called their local representatives to encourage them to support making GE food labeling law in the state. And local resolutions in support of making the labeling of GE foods the law are moving forward in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.