Legislators and Advocates Announce Major Campaign for GMO Labeling
New York – New York State legislators and dozens of advocates joined at the steps of City Hall today to kick off a major statewide campaign to label GMO food in New York.
The group urged lawmakers to prioritize state legislation (A. 617/S.485) requiring genetically engineered food to be labeled. In the wake of the approval of GMO salmon by the FDA and a powerful editorial in The New York Times calling for labeling, lawmakers underscored the need for mandatory labeling of GMO food.
"Nearly all Americans and certainly the majority of New Yorkers support GMO labeling," said Assembly member Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. "My bill to require mandatory GMO labeling in New York State will provide New York consumers with crucial information about the food they put on their tables and feed their families. Now that GMO salmon has been approved by the FDA, even more Americans will begin to wake up to the need for mandatory GMO labeling. The bill to label GMO food products has languished for years in New York, but its time has come."
Senator Ken LaValle, sponsor of the GMO labeling bill in the New York Senate, said, “I am pleased that the momentum continues to grow with this measure. Everyone has a right to know the complete composition of the food that they consume.” He continued, “If an item includes genetically modified ingredients, consumers should be clearly notified with indications on the label. Families should be provided the information necessary to make informed decisions when choosing their food products.”
“Big agribusinesses like Monsanto claim they support free markets, but they’re fighting tooth and nail to prevent consumers from learning if products they eat are genetically engineered. Many GMO products have serious environmental consequences, including being engineered specifically so they can accommodate the use of highly toxic pesticides,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried.
“New Yorkers have the right to know if the food that they are consuming has been genetically modified. Informing consumers by labeling genetically engineered food is an imperative step in the fight for a more transparent marketplace," Assembly Member Rebecca A. Seawright said.
"It's not about telling consumers what to eat or what not to eat; it's about making sure consumers have the information about what goes into their food to make that decision for themselves.”
"There is nothing more important than ensuring the safety of our families. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has raised a warning flag on the rise in autoimmune diseases, infertility, gastrointestinal problems and chronic diseases with the introduction of genetically modified foods. Compound this problem with the fact that a few biotech companies hold, and in the future can hold all, the patents for seeds for global food production. What we have is the actualization of a sci-fi thriller with catastrophic consequences for humanity," declared Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo, member of the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation. He added, "Proper labeling, safety testing and government vigilance on this issue is paramount to protecting our food supply."
“As more people educate themselves about the ingredients that make up their food, it becomes increasingly important that we as lawmakers ensure that consumers are given the chance to make an informed decision about what they are buying at the grocery store – and that includes requiring labeling of products made with genetically modified organisms,” said Senator Joseph P. Addabo, Jr.
Members of the New York GMO Labeling Coalition announced the launch of an aggressive campaign for labeling in the coming year, including grassroots organizers working across the state, multiple large rallies in the state capitol, and actions in key districts across the state.
“The movement for GMO labeling in New York grows every day. We know that Monsanto and their allies in the biotech industry will spend millions to keep New Yorkers dining in the dark, but it’s time for our elected leaders to listen to the massive grassroots movement and grant us our right to know what is in the food we feed our families,” said Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch.
"Whether it's the campus cafeteria, or local supermarkets, students across the state care about our food choices. GMO labeling matters to students so we can choose what we buy and eat, not corporate interests," said Claire Lynch, City College of NY student and NYPIRG Board of Directors member. "We call on our legislators to pass GMO labeling now – no more dining in the dark!"
“NOFA-NY members join thousands of New York consumers and farmers who have strong concerns about the environmental and the unknown health impacts of GE crops,” said Liana Hoodes, policy advisor at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York. “NOFA-NY members—both farmers and consumers—feel strongly that GMO crops create environmental risks—perhaps irreversible, and put the integrity of the organic market at risk—jeopardizing the right to farm of both organic farmers and farmers who choose to grow non-GMO crops.”
"Consumers Union believes that consumers have a right to know if their food is genetically engineered," stated Chuck Bell, Programs Director, Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. "Consumer Reports tests have found genetically engineered ingredients in many common snack foods and breakfast cereals, without any labeling. Some were even labeled ‘natural.’ We need mandatory GMO labeling to end consumer confusion."
“Public debate often overlooks the devastating environmental effects caused by GMOs. GMO production has encouraged the concentrated use of glyphosate, the proliferation of herbicide-resistant weeds, and the development of increasingly potent pesticides such as Enlist Duo. New Yorkers should have information available at the point of purchase so that consumers may avoid products whose pesticide-riddled production harms pollinator habitats, increases the likelihood of childhood cancers, and threatens fertility,” said Richard Schrader, New York Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “NRDC supports a New York State labeling law to protect public choice, health, and the environment from harmful corporate agricultural interests.”
"Between FDA's recent approval of AquaBounty's genetically engineered salmon for human food and the Grocery Manufacturers Association's push to get Congress to block GMO labeling at the federal level and preempt states from passing their own labeling laws, it is urgent that we hold our elected officials in Congress and Albany accountable for their actions on GMO food labeling," said Stacie Orell, Director of GMO Free NY and Campaign Coordinator of the NY GMO Labeling Coalition. "So today we are asking New Yorkers to call U.S. Senators Gillibrand and Schumer and their Representative in the House to tell them NOT to support any anti-GMO-labeling rider slipped into the ‘must-pass’ omnibus appropriations bill.”
“As a Harlem resident I see first hand the impacts of nutrition-related illness like obesity and diabetes. While an affordable PathMark shut their doors in East Harlem and a new Whole Foods is being built for the new gentrified Harlem residents, we need to ensure that everyone in the community has access to healthy and affordable food,” said Liz McMilan, WE ACT for Environmental Justice member and Harlem Resident. “While we need to expand and protect community gardens, farmers markets and connect to more black and brown farmers through local initiatives like Corbin Hill Food Project we need to ensure that GMO food is properly labeled in our bodegas and supermarkets where our community goes shopping to protect our health, agriculture and environment.”
"The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter firmly believes in the importance of labeling foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs)," said Carl Arnold, Chair, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. "While the industry claims that GMOs increase crop yields, and reduce use of energy and pesticides, a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that GMO crops contribute to a host of environmental and human health problems. These include disrupting ecosystems and reducing biodiversity, the emergence of herbicide-tolerant 'superweeds,' seriously depleting soil quality and actually increasing pesticide use. These harms are accompanied by increasing evidence of the toxicity of the glyphosate pesticides used to treat GMO crops. Sadly," Arnold added, "consumers are not informed which products contain GMOs. A.617/S.485-A would provide New Yorkers with that information and allow consumers to make informed decisions when choosing food for their families."
"Good Boy Organics supports GMO labeling. All food producers budget for label changes; adding a few words to indicate a product contains genetically engineered ingredients has no cost impact to consumers as Big Food has claimed,” said David Byrnes, CEO of Good Boy Organics. “As Americans we have a right to know what we eat and if those foods contain genetically engineered ingredients."
The U.S. currently lags behind 64 countries that already require GMO labeling. According to polls by Consumer Reports and The New York Times, over 90% of US consumers support GMO labeling. Alaska, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont already have labeling laws.
Contact: Alex Beauchamp, 347-774-4634, [email protected]