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Natural Awakenings Boston

GMO Labeling Movement Heats Up in Massachusetts

Feb 28, 2014 12:53PM ● By Myrna Greenfield

Most processed foods contain some genetically engineered ingredients, such as corn, soy beans and sugar beets, yet U.S. manufacturers are not required to state whether their products contain GMO ingredients. Currently, 64 other countries—including most other industrialized countries such as the 15 European Union nations, Japan, Australia, Russia and China—require GMO labeling.

Five bills requiring some form of GMO labeling bills are currently in committee in the Massachusetts legislature. If any of the bills get voted out of committee by March 18, advocates will have until July to help the legislation pass. If either deadline is missed, there won’t be another opportunity for Massachusetts to consider GMO labeling until the 2015 legislative session opens.

Massachusetts Right to Know GMOs, a statewide education and advocacy group, is currently engaged in mobilizing Massachusetts citizens to contact their legislators. “We generated 2,000 emails and phone calls to legislators in early February,” recently stated Martin Dagoberto, the network facilitator for the organization.

Massachusetts residents are getting behind the issue. A MoveOn.org petition supporting Massachusetts legislation to label GMOs has gathered nearly 15,000 signatures. Activists are also planning their third worldwide March Against Monsanto corporation on May 24, with local actions in Boston, Chicopee and New Bedford.

Dagoberto is “cautiously optimistic” that the Massachusetts legislation will pass. “We’re encouraging legislators to work together on one bill that has the best, most legally defensible language,” he said. Either way, Dagoberto believes that the U.S. will eventually require some form of labeling for GMO foods. “GMO labeling is inevitable,” he says. “We’re hitting a critical mass of awareness. It’s only a matter of time before we regain control of our food supply.”

Despite a massive industry effort to oppose GMO labeling, most Americans are in favor of it. According to a 2013 New York Times poll, 93 percent of Americans support labeling GMO foods. A growing number of consumers are going out of their way to purchase non-GMO foods. A 2013 Organic Trade Association consumer survey found that 22 percent of consumers are choosing organic foods specifically because they want to avoid GMOs—up from 17 percent in 2011.

“Certified organic products aren’t allowed to contain genetically modified ingredients,” states Jeff Barry, owner of Boston Organics, an independent organic produce and grocery delivery service. “Many of our customers will buy only organic, because they don’t want to serve GMO foods to their families.”

Consumers that wish to avoid non- GMO foods can also look for foods containing the Non-GMO Verified or GMO Guard Verification seals, or avoid eating processed foods, unless they’re organic. GMO Free Massachusetts, a coalition that educates consumers about the issue and informs them how to buy non-GMO products, has a section on their website listing GMO-free products.

Myrna Greenfield blogs about growing, buying, cooking and eating local, healthy, sustainable food on The PescoVegetarian Times at PescoVegTimes.com.

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