Congresswoman Pingree talks to supporters of state's efforts to have their own GMO labeling laws
By Ramona du Houx
Consumers, farmers, states’ rights and consumer rights activists traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a scheduled hearing and protest a bill that would preempt states’ rights to pass laws requiring the mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree spoke to hundreds of people from around the country who gathered to oppose a bill called the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know” or DARK Act that would essentially ban state GMO labeling laws.
"You are here representing the 90 percent of American people who want to know what's in their food," said Pingree at the rally. "Thank you for making your voices heard."
The Maine law, passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor LePage this year, would require GMO labeling when five nearby states also adopt similar requirements.
“We believe states should have the ability to pass laws that are not pre-empted by Congress making deals with corporations,” said Maine State Representative Charlotte Warren from Hallowell.
Currently 64 other countries around the world require labeling of GMO food. Polling shows nearly all Americans support a similar requirement, but large corporations, like Monsanto, that produce GMOs have fought labeling laws and support the DARK Act.
“The message from consumers around the country is loud and clear: They want to know what’s in their food and they don’t want Congress stepping in to block efforts in states like Maine to require GMO labeling. This bill is a desperate attempt by Monsanto and their supporters to keep the public from knowing when they are buying a GMO product,” said Pingree.
H.R. 4432, the DARK Act, was introduced in April by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.). It was written with help from the biotech and processed food industries to protect corporate profits. If passed, the bill would give sole authority to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to stipulate labeling requirements for foods containing genetically modified organism (GMOs). Groups that oppose the bill argue that under the U.S. Constitution, states and municipalities have the right to pass food labeling laws to protect the health of their citizens.
“Every citizen in this country, regardless of political affiliation, should be extremely concerned when Congress allows corporations to write laws, and those laws tromp on the rights of consumers and the constitutional rights of state and local governments to pass their own laws to protect their citizens and communities,” said Ronnie Cummins, International Director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) whose organization along with a collation put the rally together.
In May 2014, Vermont passed a stand-alone GMO labeling law. Maine and Connecticut have passed similar laws, but those laws can’t be enacted unless four or five contiguous states also pass mandatory GMO labeling bills. H.R. 4432 would make that impossible, leaving the laws in Maine and Connecticut essentially dead. The outcome another GMO labeling initiative in Oregon, Measure 92, that was on the November ballot is currently unknown until a recount is complete.
The OCA organized and promoted the protest with a large collation including: Friends of the Earth, Credo, Cornucopia Institute, Food & Water Watch, Mercola.com, Dr. Bronner’s, GMO Action Alliance, Label GMOs, March Against Monsanto, Moms Across America, Weston Price Foundation, Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, GMO Free USA, Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association, Green America/GMO Inside, MoveOn.org, Food Democracy Now, Maine Sierra Club, Health-Liberty Coalition, and many state GMO Free groups.
The groups organized buses from across the country, including from New Jersey; Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maine, Chicago, West Virginia, Indiana, New York, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. The trip from Maine was canceled due to weather.