At least 25 states are working on laws that would require labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOS). Here’s a rundown of the bills and their status.
Alaska isn’t taking any chances when it comes to genetically engineered (GE) fish. The state already has a law in place that would require GE shellfish and fish to be labeled, even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t yet approved them.
On March 25, the Alaska Legislature unanimously approved a resolution, HJR5, opposing a petition by AquaBounty Technologies to commercialize GE salmon. (AquaBounty is awaiting approval by the FDA of its AquAdvantage salmon, or “Frankenfish” as its opponents call it). HJR5, sponsored by Rep. Geran Tarr of Anchorage, also asks the federal government to require labels on GE salmon if it the Agency approves it.
• Resolution on Genetically Modified Salmon Passes
• Alaska House Passes Resolution Opposing “Frankenfish”
Arizona Senate Bill 1180, which was recently introduced by Ed Ableser (D-17), isn't expected to gain traction this year, but the anti-GMO movement is.
In February, the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability, GMO-Free Arizona, The Urban Farm, Changing Hands Bookstore and the Institute for Responsible Technology sponsored an event offering evidence that adopting a non-GMO diet can reverse health problems.
• Senate Bill 1180: Should Arizona Label Genetically Modified foods?
• GMO Debate Cropping Up In Arizona
The Colorado Right to Know bill, introduced by Colorado Rep. Jeanne Labuda, D-Denver, was defeated in a 7-2 vote in a committee hearing, after five hours of testimony. Despite testimony from concerned consumers, parents and health advocates, the committee's majority sided with industry representatives who said a state GMO law would unfairly burden farmers and agricultural businesses, and ultimately shift the cost to consumers. The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union supported the bill.
Colorado isn’t giving up. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis has joined with Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to work on a federal GMO labeling law. At a recent press conference at Alfalfa's Market in Boulder, Polis said the legislation "is not about the health or environmental impacts of GMOs, which are important discussions, but rather it's about consumer freedom and choice."
• Seeds of Discontent: Stomach-Turning GMO Debate Heats Up
• Colorado Committee Stops GMO Labeling Bill in its Tracks
• Another State Bill for GE Food Labeling Struck Down
Connecticut has two GMO labeling laws in the works, HB 6519 and HB 6527. Both have passed out of committee. On April 2, HB 6519 passed out of the Public Health Committee, by an overwhelming majority vote of 23-4. Supporters have until the June 5, when the legislative session ends, to get the bill through the house and senate. Under Connecticut law, the bill may also need to be voted on in another committee before it goes to the house.
On March 12, the Children's Committee voted 11-1 in favor of HB 6527, An Act Concerning Genetically Engineered Baby Food, which would require the labeling of foods containing GE ingredients fed to infants.
• Testimony in support of CT HB 6519
• Plan For Labeling 'GMOs' in Connecticut Moving Forward
• Lawmakers Consider Labeling Genetically Modified Food
• Push To Label Modified Foods Hits Capitol Hearing
• Food Labeling Draws Crowd & Some Star Power
After more than 8,000 Floridians signed a petition to support labeling of GE foods, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda D-Tallahassee, with support from Sen. Maria Sachs D-Delray Beach, filed a bill (1233) that would require plants or meats that contain genetic material that has been artificially altered in a lab to be labeled before it can be sold in Florida.
• The push to label genetically modified foods in Florida
Monsanto has killed Hawaii’s Right to Know bill, HB 174, but the biotech giant can’t stop the movement. The Hawaii Senate committees on agriculture, consumer protection and health agreed to table a proposal that would have required labels on imported genetically modified food. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Clarence Nishihara didn't want to give the bill a hearing, but he was forced to compromise after meeting with other senators who were getting calls from constituents about the issue.
Sen. Josh Green, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, supports labeling genetically modified food. He told The Associated Press after the hearing that even though the law won't pass this year, it will happen in the future. "Even the biotech industry is going to realize over time that the public trust is more important than any of the dissenting views today," Green said.
In the meantime, the Hawaii legislature may pass a resolution requesting the U.S. Congress to support legislation requiring the USDA and FDA to come up with a nationwide system for labeling genetically engineered foods; on April 1, HR149 passed the House Agriculture Committee.
• Monsanto, ag interests win GMO food labeling fight in Hawaii
• Hawaii Senate Kills GMO Labeling Bill
• Hawaii Senate defers GMO food labeling bill
Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, chair of the Agriculture Committee, has sponsored SB 1666, a bill that would require labels on products containing GE ingredients. Sen. Koehler will have a subcommittee working this summer to set up hearings throughout the state to gather testimony on the issue.
Koehler, chairman of the Agriculture Committee in the state Senate and sponsor of the bill, made it clear that he is not taking a position that genetically modified foods are good or bad. He said it is part of a broader trend calling for greater transparency.
• Activists push for labeling of genetically modified food in Illinois
• Revamping Teacher Pensions, State Budget Problems, Coal, GM Labeling and the Affordable Care Act
Representatives Dan Forestal and Robin Shackleford’s Right to Know bill, HB 1196, died in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. But Indiana consumers will have some protection from GE seafood, thanks to Marsh Supermarkets. The retail grocery chain, with 93 stores in Indiana and Ohio, has pledged to not sell GE seafood if the FDA approves it.
• Grocers Vow Not to Sell Genetically Engineered Seafood
• Courier-Journal Editorial: Frankenfish, fish fraud, a lot to stomach
Iowa State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, introduced his GE food-labeling bill, Senate File 194, on Feb. 13. The bill was assigned to the Senate Agriculture Committee, but has not yet received a public hearing.
The National Federation of Independent Business, the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, the Iowa Seed Association, Biotechnology Association, Du Pont Businesses, Kraft Foods Global Inc., Iowa Grocery Association and the Iowa Association of Business and Industry are among those lining up against the bill.
Waiting for their chance to move the bill are the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund and Food and Water Watch. Senator Bolkcom says his is a simple bill “that gives consumers information they want.”
• GMO Labeling Laws On Deck In Midwest
LD 718, An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers' Right To Know about Genetically Engineered Food and Seed Stock, is sponsored by Republican Rep. Lance Harvell and cosponsored by Democratic Sen. Chris Johnson. Maine’s Right to Know bill has more than 120 co-sponsors, including Democrats, Republicans and independents.
• Eye on Augusta: GMO Labeling Bill Returns to the Legislature
• MOFGA’s GMO Right to Know Labeling Campaign
Despite having been introduced with a half-dozen cosponsors, Maryland’s Right to Know bill. HB 0903, was withdrawn February 26, 2013, due to an unfavorable report by Health and Government Operations.
Maryland State Delegate Glen Glass introduced the bill which would have required food manufacturers to include labels on products that have genetically engineered ingredients in them. Under the provisions of the bill, any food product that was genetically engineered would have to be labeled as such, either bearing a warning notifying that the product is "Genetically Engineered" or "Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering." Additionally, it would be unlawful for such products to advertise themselves as "natural," "naturally grown" or "all natural."
• Maryland Legislator Introduces Bill That Would Mandate Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods
Massachusetts Right to Know reports, “Our elected officials on Beacon Hill have introduced FIVE pieces of legislation related to the labeling of GMOs for 2013.
The bills are:
H.2093 “An Act relative to the labeling of food” also referred to as “The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act” Introduced by: Ellen Story (D-Amherst)
H.808 “An act relative to the labeling of genetically engineered foods” Introduced by: Todd Smola (R-Palmer)
H.2037, “An Act to establish guidelines for genetically engineered food”Introduced by: Michael Moran (D-Brighton)
H.1936, “An Act relative to genetically engineered food” Introduced by: Stephen DiNatale (D-Fitchburg)
H.813, “An Act relative to the labeling of seed” Introduced by Ellen Story (D-Amherst)
To keep up to date on the status of these bills, and to contact your legislators, you can find more information here.
• The Republican Editorial: Knowledge is power in supermarket aisles
The Minnesota Legislature is considering two GMO labeling bills, HF 850 and SF 821. The bills face tough opposition from groups like the Minnesota Farmers Union, which supports a federal labeling law but not state laws, and General Mills, which is based in Golden Valley, MN.
Doug Peterson, head of the Minnesota Farmers Union, said his organization supports GE labeling on a federal level, though not state-by-state. “Consumers want to know what’s in the food they buy, and some people want to know if it’s got [GE ingredients],” he said.
Golden Valley-based General Mills Inc., one of the nation’s biggest packaged-food companies, spent $1.23 million last year to defeat Proposition 37, the California referendum to require GE labeling. In a January interview with the Star Tribune, General Mills CEO Ken Powell said, “We strongly disagree with state-by-state labeling. … If you can imagine 50 different states with 50 different labeling requirements — I mean people are going to be paying a lot for food.”
As a side note, General Mills is being sued by consumer Gabriel Rojas who alleges that the Nature Valley granola bars the company touts as "100 percent natural" actually contain ingredients from genetically modified plants and therefore shouldn’t be labeled as such. No surprise that the company opposed GMO labeling!
If you live in Minnesota, please ask your legislators to approve HF 850 and SF 821 today.
• Bills would require labels on genetically engineered food in Minnesota
• General Mills Says False Ad Case Best Left To FDA
In Missouri, state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, introduced SB 155, a bill that would require poultry and fish produced and sold in the state to be labeled if created through genetic engineering. While there’s no such meat on the market for human consumption, the FDA is currently considering whether to allow the sale of genetically-engineered salmon.
“I don’t feel the trend of biotechnology and genetically engineered foods is always apparent to the average citizen,” Sen. Nasheed is quoted as saying in a press release from earlier this year. “However, I strongly feel that people have the right to know what they are putting in their bodies.”
• GMO Labeling Laws On Deck In Midwest
• Is ‘Modern Farming’ a Legal Right?
The Nevada legislature is considering AB 330, a bill to label genetically engineered foods in Nevada. The bill survived a March 22 hearing and was sent to committee on March 25. If it’s approved by the committee by April 12, the will be sent to the Assembly for a vote.
If you live in Nevada, please contact your lawmakers, and ask them to support AB 330.
• Support the Labeling of GMOs in Nevada
New Hampshire’s HB 660, introduced by Rep. Maureen Mann, received a five-hour hearing in the House Agriculture Committee on February 28, 2013. The Committee is analyzing the bill and will provide a final recommendation to the full House by this fall. The committee will start working on the measure in August.
Among supporters of New Hampshire’s Right to Know bill is Susan Ulin who reversed her miniature horse, Sunshine’s, intestinal problems by ridding Sunshine’s diet of genetically engineered food. Ulin said that her horse’s health, and the health of her family, has improved since they dropped GE foods from their diets.
• Concord Monitor Editorial: Pass the food labeling bill
• Keene Sentinel Editorial: Consumers should be allowed to choose whether they want to eat GMOs
• Controversial GMO bill to be scrutinized by ag committee this summer
• Letter: A no-brainer
New Jersey’s Assemblywoman Linda Stender, D-Scotch Plains, has introduced two GMO labeling bills in New Jersey. A3192, which was recently released by the Assembly Health Committee, requires all food products sold in New Jersey be labeled if they contain genetically modified material. The Bill leaves it up to the Department of Health to establish guidelines for required labels and to enforce the new rules. It has no Senate counterpart and won’t move swiftly through the legislative process, but Stender has drawn attention to the issue and is likely to get shoppers to take a closer look at information already provided on food packages and wonder what else they don’t know.
Stender’s second bill, A1192, would require labeling of food containing any product from a cloned animal or its progeny. New Jersey’s Right to Know bills are expected to be voted on in May.
• Labels may alert you to genetically engineered food products
• Fight Over Labels for Genetically Modified Food Comes to New Jersey
• Hearing On Labeling For GE Foods Draws Crowd In New Jersey
• For businesses, labeling bill is food for thought
Despite passing the Senate Public Affairs Committee after an overwhelmingly positive discussion, Senate Bill 18 to amend the New Mexico Food Act, which would require the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food and feed, was deemed lost after a majority of the Senate, in an extremely rare action, voted on the Senate Floor not to adopt the committee’s report. Under Senate rules, this stopped the bill in its tracks and cut off any further debate or public input.
“Even though SB 18 is dead this year, it’s clear that New Mexicans want and deserve a label that tells them whether or not their food has been genetically engineered,” said the bill’s author Senator Peter Wirth (D-25 Santa Fe). “I greatly appreciate the Public Affairs Committee’s feedback and discussion around the issue of labeling GE food, as well as Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez’s leadership on this issue. GE food labels are a right New Mexican consumers deserve and, while this defeat is a setback, this discussion will continue at the state and national level.”
The bill passed the Public Affairs Committee 5-3 with Senators Craig Brandt (R-Dist 40), Ron Griggs (R-Dist 34) and Gay Kernan (R-Dist. 42) voting against. In a roll call vote on the Senate Floor Thursday morning, 23 senators voted to reject the report submitted by Public Affairs Committee Chair Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Dist 12).
Despite the bill’s defeat, the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau felt threatened enough to start a front group, NM Food Feeds Families, to undermine the NM Right to Know campaign.
On March 26, in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) co-sponsored a successful amendment to the Democrat's 2014 Budget bill to require labels on genetically engineered fish. While it’s unlikely that the Frankenfish labeling requirement will be included in the final 2014 budget, this is a victory for the movement for GMO labels.
• New Mexico Senate Blocks GE Food Labeling Bill
• Senate Votes to Label GE Fish in Democrat Budget
• Organic food movement is growing
GMO Free New York is working to pass two GMO labeling bills, Assembly Bill A3525, sponsored by Sen. Kenneth LaValle, and Senate Bill S3835, sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal. The deadline for passing the bills is June 13.
• GMO Labeling: Do We Need It?
• The Truth About GMOs Explored at Fair Foods Forum
State lawmakers are considering at least eight bills on genetically modified food labeling, fish and crops. Several bills would require foods produced with genetically engineered materials to be labeled. Others bills would prohibit importing or cultivating genetically engineered fish. Three other bills would place restrictions on the planting of genetically modified crops and require manufacturers of genetically engineered seeds to be held liable for damages to neighboring crops.
The battle over genetically modified crops and seeds is especially ripe in Jackson County, where a measure on the May 2014 ballot would ban the growing of genetically engineered plants and allow the county to enforce it.
The Rogue River Valley is home to dozens of organic farmers, including Chuck Burr, who sells more than 200 varieties of organic seeds through his company, Restoration Seeds. Last year, Burr said he destroyed about a tenth of an acre of rainbow chard after learning that a plot of genetically engineered sugar beets might have cross-pollinated his crops. The crop was worth about $4,400, Burr said, which would have covered property taxes for the year on his 10-acre farm.
"As a small farmer, that's a big deal," Burr said. "If a transgenetic trait gets into my crop, then I can't sell my crop as organic. It's no longer true to type, and I cannot market it, so I have to destroy the crop."
Under a bill introduced by Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, Burr could have sought compensation from the beet planter. Buckley has also introduced a bill that would allow counties to establish control areas for commodities. It would allow the Jackson County ballot measure to move forward, he said.
A separate Senate bill would prevent the Jackson County ballot measure from reaching voters by designating the state as the authority to regulate seeds.
The Chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, said he would be awaiting a formal opinion from Legislative Counsel on those questions before moving forward with the bills.
Monsanto has formed a front-group in the state called Oregonians for Food and Shelter.
• Lawmakers weigh bills on genetically modified food
• Should Oregon require the labeling of genetically modified foods? (poll)
• Oregon could ban genetically engineered fish, require labeling of genetically modified foods
• Oregon lawmakers consider labeling genetically engineered food and restricting fish importation
• Scientist testifies against GE fish ban, label bill
• Oregon House bills target GE crops
Pennsylvania Senator Daylin Leach (17th District - Montgomery & Delaware counties), introduced SB 653 which would mandate the labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) foods, or foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMO's).
In a press release Leach said: “The fact that the industry is deliberately and aggressively fighting for the ability to keep relevant information from consumers about what they are feeding their families boggles the mind and should offend everyone.”
Pennsylvania’s Right to Know legislation has the support of more than 70 groups including farmers, food co-ops and the Pennsylvania Association of Nurses. In addition, the legislation has bi-partisan support and a dozen co-sponsors.
One of the bill's supporters is Earthlight Natural Foods in Stroudsburg. Jake Roth, the store's produce and bulk foods purchaser, said if his store finds a product on its shelves with GMOs, it stops selling it immediately.
"There has not been enough research on the effect of GMOs on the human body: digestion, health issues, cancer, diabetes, ulcers, feed for animals. Ireland banned them entirely. Hungary did, too. If they found GMO crops in their fields, they burned them," he said. "It's not too late for this bill. But the tough thing when you submit bills is to get them to pass. It would be fantastic to consumers."
• Do you want to know what's in your food?
• Genetically Modified Food: Should It Be Labeled?
• Bill to Mandate Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods Hits PA Senate
• Pa. takes up fight over labeling genetically engineered foods
• Pa. lawmaker seeks labels on genetically engineered food
On February 6, 2013, Representatives Hull, Giarusso, Shekarchi, Macbeth, And Handy introduced HB.5278 to require food and food products derived from or containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled as such by the manufacturer, retailer, or other person before putting it on the market for sale in Rhode Island.
On March 6, 2013 Representatives Baldelli-Hunt and Hull introduced a second bill, HB.5849, which would limit GMO labels to food or food products produced or made in RI only.
On February 4, 31, 2013, SB.894, Tennessee Senate by Senator Frank Nicely introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act of 2013. The Bill was assigned to the Commerce and Labor Committee. A companion bill, HB 1168, was introduced in the House by Representative Joe Towns and has been assigned to the Agricultural and Natural Resource Committee.
• Labels, sometimes obscure, are the most important part of the packaging
The Vermont Right to Know GMOs Act will be voted on this week, after passing out of the House Agriculture committee on March 1, by a vote of 8-3. H112 has the support of 50 sponsors and, finally, also the support of Gov. Shumlin who opposed the bill last year after Monsanto threatened to sue the state if it passed.
Last week Gov. Shumlin said he was a "big supporter of the bill," and that the right to know what's in our food is just good "Vermont common sense.”
If you live in Vermont, the Vermont coalition asks that you call the state house to show your support for H.112, You can find your representative here.
• Vt. House committee approves GMO labeling bill
• Vermont GMO labeling bill passes first hurdle, but legal challenges await, warns assistant attorney general
• GMO labeling advocates see improved chances in Vt.
• GMO labeling is good for state
• Shumlin: GMO labeling good, bill bad
• Feiner: Dear Governor, about those GMOs …
Last week, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman certified the 353,331 signatures turned in by the grassroots campaign behind I-522, The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. Next step? Legislators have three options. They can pass I-522 into law as is. They can take no action, which means the initiative will go directly to the voters in November 2013. Or they can write their own alternative version of the bill, send both to the ballot in November, and let voters pick one. I-522 has tremendous support already from legislators, farmers and the general public. Of course it helps the cause that the FDA wants to approve GMO “frankenfish” in a state where wild salmon is iconic.
• 6 Reasons GMO Labeling Will Pass in Washington State
• Washington Activists Launch a California-Style Ballot Initiative - I-522 "The People's Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act"
West Virginia’s HB.2153, introduced on Feb. 13, 2013, by Rep. Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, sets forth labeling requirements regarding the sale of foods containing GE materials and foods produced with GE materials; provides exceptions; requires testing; provides civil penalties; provides for civil suits by the Commissioner of Agriculture and suits by citizens; defines terms; and provides rule-making authority.
To support HB 2153, go here.