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GMO Labeling bill passes New York Assembly’s Consumer Affairs committee

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

 GMO Labeling bill passes New York Assembly’s Consumer Affairs committee

 Advocates Praise Lawmakers for Standing Up for Consumers- Not the Big Food and Beverage Industry 90% of Americans Want GMO Foods Labeled

Albany- The Assembly’s Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection today passed with nine votes bill A.617 to require the labeling of food made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Despite opposition by big food and beverage corporations, organizing by environmental and consumers’ rights advocates helped ensure the bill made it through the committee. The vote comes on the heels of the controversial decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve the sale of a genetically modified apple that doesn’t bruise, spoil or brown.

“As Chairman of the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection, I believe consumers have a right to know what their food contains, be it gluten, sugar, or genetically modified organisms. While the research on the long-term ecological, social, and physiological impacts of GMOs remains incomplete, GMOs are a departure from time-tested practices that humans have used to adapt the natural world to their needs. I stand with a growing chorus of voices in New York and across the United States who seek more information about the foods they buy, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to bring this bill to a vote in the full Assembly this session,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx).

Overwhelmingly, Americans want mandatory labeling of genetically modified food. According to polls by Consumer Reports and The New York Times, over 90% of consumers want genetically engineered food labeled.

Despite the support of most Americans for labeling GMOs, consumers are left in the dark because to date no food manufacturer has voluntarily labeled its genetically engineered food and there is no mandate in place. The U.S. lags behind 64 countries– including the European Union, Australia, Japan, China, Russia and India- that already require GMO labeling and keep consumers informed about what is in their food. Alaska, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont already have labeling laws.

“After months of hard work by consumers’ rights advocates, farmers and environmental groups, I am pleased that my bill to require mandatory GMO labeling was successfully reported out of the Committee on Consumer Affairs. The vast majority of New Yorkers, and consumers across the country, want to know what is in the food that they feed to their families and support mandatory GMO labeling. I look forward to continuing to work with the advocates and my colleagues in the Assembly to bring this bill to the full Assembly floor for a vote,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan).

The bill mandates the labeling of foods that have been produced with genetic engineering, providing consumers with basic information about what’s in their food and how it’s made. This will allow consumers to make informed choices when deciding what to eat and feed their families. There is currently no requirement for food producers to label foods that have been genetically modified.

“We’re grateful to the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee for voting in sync with the people’s will today,” said Stacie Orell, Campaign Director of GMO Free NY. “According to recent polls, over 90% of Americans want GMO foods to be labeled as such, and New York State is now one step closer to realizing that goal. We now call upon the rest of the Assembly to heed the call for increased transparency about how our food is produced and allow New Yorkers to make fully informed decisions about what to eat and feed their families.”

“Just like the labeling of nutrition details and calorie counts, the labeling of genetically modified foods is a right that consumers deserve and expect,” said Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch. “We’re very pleased with today’s vote, and now we’re calling on Assembly leadership to similarly stand up for New Yorkers’ right to know what they’re eating.”

GMOs are foods produced through genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is a technique for moving DNA from one living thing to another, not just within a species, but between species and even between the plant and animal kingdoms, in order to express a desired trait. Virtually all GMO crops on the market have been engineered to be pest-resistant (by producing their own pesticide), herbicide-tolerant (by being able to survive repeated sprayings with toxic weedkillers such as Roundup), or both. Large food corporations claim that GMO foods are safe to eat. However some research suggests that some of them may pose health risks. Unlike European countries, the US FDA does not require any mandatory premarket safety review of GMO foods. Thus the safety of those on the market is in doubt.

“Consumers Union’s research has found that the cost of labeling would be less than a penny a day – just $2.30 per person annually,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports.  “This is a tiny price to pay for having this critically-important information at the point of sale. New York lawmakers should pass the NY GMO Food Labeling Act to give state residents the information they clearly want about their food.”

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Contact: Raymond Rodriguez, 646-200-5309, raymond@berlinrosen.com

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