The effort to label GMOs in New York is growing on Long Island and across the state. In Massapequa, supporters of labeling have sent hundreds of petitions and made dozens of phone calls to Sen.Michael Venditto. On Wednesday, April 6, local residents thanked Venditto for moving Senate Bill 485—a bill to label genetically engineered food—out of the consumer protection committee. The bill gives New Yorkers critical information about what is in their food and how it is produced.
Residents delivered more than 1,000 petitions in support of GMO labeling to Venditto and thanked him for moving the bill one step closer to law. Venditto, who serves as chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee, took action by discharging the GMO labeling bill out of his committee and moving it on to the Codes Committee.
“We’re excited today to be one step closer to knowing whether the food we feed our families is genetically engineered,” said Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Region director at Food & Water Watch. “Senator Venditto showed true leadership by standing up for local families over the interests of junk food and chemical corporations. It’s time for his colleagues to do the same and pass GMO labeling into law now.”
According to polls, more than 90 percent of Americans want GMOs to be labeled. New York would be the fourth state, following Vermont, Connecticut and Maine, to pass a law in support of labeling. The event on April 6 followed a rally in Albany with 250 attendees from across the state.
“Senator Venditto stood up for consumers yesterday,” said local resident and mother, Margaret Maher. “Food is a right for everybody. We have the right to know what’s in our foods. As a mother and a breast cancer survivor this is extremely important to me. I want to give my family food that is healthy.”
At the federal level, the Senate blocked legislation introduced by Senator Pat Roberts that would halt state efforts to label GMOs. If passed, the bill would have undermined state laws that give consumers the right to know what’s in their food. U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer both opposed this bill, siding with the majority of Americans who want GMOs to be labeled. Shortly after the bill’s defeat, U.S. food company General Mills announced they will voluntarily label all products sold in the U.S. that contain genetically engineered ingredients. Other companies such as Mars, Kellogg’s and ConAgra were quick to follow. The label is simple and inexpensive, which is why companies like Campbell’s and Kellogg’s have said they’ll be labeling nationwide voluntarily, without any price increase for consumers.
“We are here today to express our gratitude to Senator Venditto, for moving New York’s GMO labeling bill out of his committee,” said Stacie Orell, director of GMO Free NY. “Now, it’s time for New York’s legislature to put to public interest and consumer rights before corporate profits. We’re the ones who elect you into office, not Monsanto. It’s an election year, and we want to know if our food contains GMOs.”
“Consumers Union believes that consumers have a right to know if their food is genetically engineered, and today moves us a big step closer to recognizing that right,” added 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.”
In the New York State Assembly, the bill to label GMOs (A. 617/S. 485) is currently facing a vote in the codes committee and has 74 cosponsors. In the state Senate, the bill has 29 cosponsors and is now in the Rules Committee.