For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Millions Against Monsanto page and our Genetic Engineering page.
Seventy-one senators voted against
the Sanders Amendment to the Farm Bill, an amendment to uphold states’
rights to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food.
It’s time to take action. The Organic Consumers Association has selected
10 of the 71 senators (listed below). With help from several of our
ongoing allies in the GMO labeling battle, along with MoveOn.org, and
some of the state GMO campaigns, we’re launching a campaign to start
pressuring these 10 senators to support their state’s right to enact a
GMO labeling law.
How? By organizing meetings at their Washington D.C. and home district
offices. By submitting op-eds to their state newspapers. By encouraging
consumers to email and call their senators, write letters to the editors
of their newspapers, and post on their facebook pages.
Here’s what we want these 10 Senators to do.
• Explain why they voted against the Sanders Amendment
• Issue a public statement that they will not support any rider,
amendment, or legislation of any kind that would preempt their state’s
right to enact a GMO labeling law.
We’ve listed the 10 Senators below, organized by state. If your Senator
is on the list, be on the lookout soon for an invitation to visit one of
his or her district offices. In the meantime, you can start pressuring
them now, by calling their offices or emailing them. Or posting on their
facebook pages (we’ve included the links, next to their names). You can
also write a letter to the editor of your local paper, “outing” you
Senator as one of those who voted against your right to know.
ILLINOIS: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
*$28,000 in campaign contributions from agribusiness
We’re sending people to Sen. Durbin’s office because he’s the Senate
Assistant Majority Leader, and because the people of Illinois have been
clear: They want labels on genetically engineered (GE) foods. Illinois
has an active “Illinois Right to Know GMO”
campaign and the state has GMO labeling legislation in the pipeline.
The Illinois Right to Know movement turned out more than 2000 activists
on May 25 for the March Against Monsanto. With all that activity,
wouldn’t you think the senator who supposedly represents Illinois voters
would support an amendment to uphold states’ rights to label GMOs?
GMO legislation: On Feb. 13, 2013, State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) introduced SB 1666,
legislation that would require companies to label foods containing
GMOs. Sen. Koehler has chosen to hold off on a Committee vote in order
to hold a series of hearings before the subcommittee of the Illinois
State Senate Committee on Agriculture and Conservation. The hearings
will be open to the public.
KENTUCKY: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky)
No significant campaign contributions from agribusiness
We couldn’t resist including Sen. Rand Paul on the list, even though
there is no GMO legislation currently before the Kentucky state
legislature. The king of state’s rights, himself, voting against state’s
rights to label GMOs? Sen. Paul says
he’s “fully in favor of consumers being fully informed of what they're
buying, but he's incredibly cautious about handing government new powers
to regulate food labeling.” We think it’s worth having an in-depth
discussion with Sen. Paul on this issue, especially as there are already
so many state laws already governing food and food labeling. Would he
vote to overturn those laws, if given the chance?
Kentucky GMO legislation: None.
MAINE: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
$17,500 in campaign contributions from agribusiness
Sen. Collins made the list for a couple of reasons. First, as a
Republican, we were surprised to see her vote against states’ rights.
Second, we were especially surprised, given that Maine has such a strong
GMO labeling movement. The state is poised to pass GMO labeling
legislation soon, thanks to the powerful Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association,
which is leading the charge. The overwhelming majority of Maine voters
want GMO labeling laws. Maine’s Sen. Collins? Not so much.
Maine GMO legislation: A GMO
labeling bill has been passed out of a joint legislative committee and
will be voted on by the state Senate and House any day.
MASSACHUSETTS: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass)
Is Sen. Warren, who is so often on the right side of so many issues,
just out of touch with the voters in Massachusetts? We were shocked to
learn that she voted against the Sanders Amendment, especially in a
state that is currently considering five GMO labeling bills. Sen
Warren’s response to a voter who asked her why she voted no on states’
rights to label GMOs? She insisted that the Sanders Amendment would
“take away the authority of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration
(FDA).” When the voter pointed out that the amendment merely would have
preserved federal protection of states’ rights to safeguard consumers,
she “wouldn’t hear of it,” the voter said. We’re hoping her hearing will
improve if enough people show up in her office to talk about the Tenth
Amendment to the Constitution, and why voters in her state want the
right to know what’s in their food.
Massachusetts GMO legislation:
The Massachusetts state legislature is currently considering five GMO
labeling bills. The Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources
and Agriculture is debating H.808, introduced by Todd Smola (R-Palmer),
which would require the labeling of foods containing GMOs and H.813,
introduced by Ellen Story (D-Amherst), which would require the labeling
of genetically engineered seeds. The remaining three GMO labeling bills
have been referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health, including
H.2093, introduced by Ellen Story (D-Amherst), H.2037, introduced by
Michael Moran (D-Brighton), and H.1936, introduced by Stephen DiNatale
MICHIGAN: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich)
$740,926 in campaign contributions from agribusiness
We chose Sen. Stabenow because, well, she’s such an easy target. She’s
not only chair of the Senate Ag Committee, but she actually led the
opposition to the Sanders amendment. The fact that she took in more
contributions from agribusiness in 2012 than any other senator, is just
icing on the cake. Arguing against the Sanders Amendment, Sen. Stabenow
said that the amendment “ . . . would interfere with the FDA’s
science-based process to determine what food labeling is necessary for
consumers.” Stabenow’s statement shows either her ignorance of, or
dismissal of, the existing scientific evidence that GE food has been
linked to everything from allergies to kidney failure to cancer.
Michigan GMO legislation: None. But there’s an active GMO Right to Know movement in the state, and 12 cities mobilized marchers for the March Against Monsanto on May 25.
MINNESOTA: Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.)
$18,800 in campaign contributions from agribusiness
Sen. Franken’s vote was another one that had us scratching our heads. In a state with active Right to Know
campaigns in major cities, and new ones being formed every day, you’d
think Sen. Franken would have voted on the side of the people, not
Monsanto. He can’t claim that he doesn’t know how Minnesota voters feel.
Two GMO labeling bills have been introduced in Minnesota and, to date,
three of Minnesota’s most-read newspapers, the Duluth Tribune, Timberjay
(northern MN), and Star Tribune, have all endorsed the state’s labeling
Minnesota GMO legislation: On February 28, 2013, SF821,
a bill to require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered seed
and food was introduced in the Minnesota legislature by Senators John
Marty and Foung Hawj. A companion bill,
was introduced by numerous members of the House on March 11, 2013. Both
bills are being withheld from a Committee vote due to the need to build
more support in the legislature through grassroots organizing and
MISSISSIPPI: Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss)
$71,500 in campaign contributions from agribusiness
No big surprise, here. Sen. Cochran, along with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.),
is credited with trying to block the Merkley Amendment to the Farm Bill,
an amendment introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to repeal the
infamous Monsanto Protection Act.
We don’t hold out much hope of winning over Sen. Cochran. But as the
ranking member of the Senate Ag Committee, we think it’s a good idea for
Mississippi Right to Knowers to pay him a visit. We’re hoping the folks
in Jackson, Miss., who marched against Monsanto will help us march into Sen. Cochran’s office.
Mississippi GMO legislation: None.
NEW JERSEY: Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
$159,050 in campaign contributions from agribusiness
We have no idea why Sen. Menendez voted against the Sanders Amendment. New Jersey has an active GMO labeling movement and bills are pending in the legislature. We did notice that more than a year ago, a New Jersey voter left a note
on Sen. Menendez’s website asking him to please introduce a GMO
labeling bill in New Jersey. It looks as if Mr. Menendez hasn’t
responded. Maybe he’ll talk to voters if they organize meetings with
New Jersey GMO legislation: This year bills were introduced in the NJ Senate and House, but neither has been passed out of committee.
NEW YORK: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
$198,883 in campaign contributions from agribusiness
One look at Sen. Gillibrand’s facebook page
and it’s obvious that New York voters weren’t happy with her vote
against the Sanders Amendment. There were plenty of questions about the
vote on her page. But no answers. Meanwhile, GMO Free New York continues to push for a state GMO labeling law, with or without Gillibrand’s support.
New York GMO legislation: New York has two active GMO labeling bills in the state legislature: Assembly Bill A3525, sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, and Senate Bill S3835,
sponsored by Kenneth Lavalle, R-Albany. A3525 was voted down in the
Assembly's Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection on June 4, 2013.
Assemblywoman Rosenthal has vowed to find another way to bring the
measure to a vote before the Legislature’s June 20 recess.
WISCONSIN: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
Wisconsin is one of those states where you just expect that leaders will
do the right thing. So, again, we were surprised when Sen. Baldwin
voted against her constituents’ right to know. Right to know Wisconsin
is actively assisting local leaders in support of labeling GMOs while
promoting more general awareness of the threats they pose to human
health and the environment. We hope to engage Sen. Baldwin in a
conversation about states’ rights to label GMOs, and win her over to our
Wisconsin GMO legislation: None.