Forget the Farm Bill: New York Legislators Push for GMO Labeling


In case you missed it: Twin bills are currently moving through the New York Senate and Assembly requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods. After Proposition 37 was shot down in California last year, New York’s might seem like a fruitless effort against a monolithic biotech lobby, but it’s part of a renewed effort to address the issue nationwide–New York is now one of 27 states that have introduced legislation to regulate GMOs.

A week ago, the Senate voted down a GMO labeling requirement in the federal Farm Bill, then introduced another amendment that GMO activists say would cut out states’ ability to require labeling. But amid the squabbling at the federal level, the Connecticut state Senate passed a GMO labeling requirement that’s moving through the House, Maine’s GMO labeling bill sailed through the state’s Agriculture Committee, and Vermont’s legislation passed in the state House.

New York’s bills were introduced in a bipartisan effort between Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D) and state Senator Ken Lavalle (R). The Assembly’s version currently has 41 co-sponsors, and Rosenthal feels that while similar legislation has failed in the past, renewed interest in GMO labeling is at an all-time high.

“I think there are a lot of activist groups and a lot of active constituents saying ‘We want to know [what’s in our food],'” Rosenthal tells the Voice. “People are seemingly rebelling against corporate America in a much more profound way these days.”

Rosenthal also adds that until the FDA makes a call on GMOs, it’s within states’ rights to regulate the products. She expects pushback, though, from biotech company Monsanto’s lobby, which has fought tirelessly over the years to defeat similar initiatives.

“I know that Monsanto threatened to sue Vermont as it passed its GMO labeling bill, and I’m quite sure they’d take the same attitude here,” Rosenthal says. “They haven’t contacted me about it, but once the bill starts moving we’ll see what happens.”

The New York Times has already made up its mind about GMO labeling requirements–in March, the paper’s editorial board argued that there was little proof of the risk GMOs could pose to human health, and therefore little reason for compulsory labeling. Rosenthal disagrees. “This is an issue of primary concern to so many people,” she says. “Labeling doesn’t convey an attitude–it’s just a statement of fact.”

(h/t Daily News, Grist)