Will a token Federal GMO labeling law pre-empt more stringent state level GMO labeling initiatives in the US?

Although the hubbub around California’s Proposition 37 to require GMO labeling may have died down, following it’s supposed defeat at the polls, concerns about GMOs have by no means gone away. The latest big story in the march to label GMOs is out of Hawaii, where an initiative to require labeling is being trumpeted, at least in the alternative media. Here’s a report from Anne Sewell on Digital Journal:

Toronto’s First GMO Kids Right To Know Walk, Nov 3 2012 Photos (Photos BY Sam Truax). Click image to see more from this event. Photo via http://www.gmo-news.com

Honolulu – Hawaii might have cause to celebrate, as lawmakers have passed a new measure in the House Committee on Agriculture, requiring labeling on genetically modified food. But is the final bill everything it was hoped to be?

Basically supporters of the bill say that they deserve to know whether the food they are buying has been genetically modified.

Jessica Mitchell, a parent who is in favor of the bill, was quoted as stating in an AP report that, “I and many mothers deserve the right to know what we are feeding our children.”

After numerous proponents of the bill testified before the House committee, it was approved on Thursday, but the bill was amended so as to only apply to produce imported from outside Hawaii…”

Read more on Digital Journal.

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From Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams.org

States Take On GMOs in Battle Over Labeling

‘This is worse than any slavery that’s ever been known, because it is enslaving the future, it is enslaving nature’

The fight to label genetically modified (gmo) foods is now on in Hawaii and Connecticut signaling that, despite big agriculture’s defeat of California’s Proposition 37 in November, proponents of seed and food sovereignty refuse to back down.

On Thursday, the group GMO Free CT held a press conference at the state’s legislative office to launch a new anti-GMO initiative calling on the Connecticut Legislature to support and pass a bill to label genetically engineered food in the state, the New Haven Registerreports.

Calling the use of GMOs in food “a very large, uncontrolled experiment with human health,” William Duesing, Executive Director of the Connecticut branch of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), spoke before the group. “The vast amount of GMO crops are designed as sales tools for specific herbicides. The majority of those sales tools are for Roundup (which) kills most green plants that haven’t been engineered to resist it,” he said.

Among those present at the event included bill-sponsor Representative Phil Miller (D-Essex),Food and Water Watch Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter, as well as a number of local activists and farm-to-table chefs and proponents.

Backing the effort, the group Food Democracy Now! has put together a letter of petition for Connecticut residents to send to their local representatives and Governor Dan Malloy encouraging them to support the legislation.

Food activists in Hawaii won a partial victory this week when the House Committee on Agriculture passed a measure to require labeling on genetically modified food.

Originally, House Bill 174 required any food product that is produced or sold in Hawaii to have a label saying it contains or was made using genetically engineered materials, but Thursday’s committee hearing amended the requirements so it only applies to produce imported from outside Hawaii….”

Read more on Common Dreams.

Vermont is working on state level legislation to label GMOs as well. Click pic to go to website.

From Michele Simon, on Civil Eats:

“Will a Federal Compromise on GMO Labeling Trump State Law, Forever?”

“Recent reports of secret meetings among industry reps and the Food and Drug Adminstration over GMO labeling piqued my interest, mostly because this critical aspect was missing: any effort to label GE foods at the federal level could bring the current grassroots movement to a grinding halt by preventing any stronger local laws from ever being enacted. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Last month, Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association and one of the leaders of the GMO labeling effort, recently published an article about how “representatives of Wal-Mart, General Mills, Pepsi-Frito Lay, Mars, Coca-Cola and others” met with the FDA on January 11 “to lobby for a mandatory federal GMO labeling law.”

The story was then picked up by Tom Laskawy at Grist, who reported that at the meeting, a Walmart representative said the retail giant would no longer oppose GMO labeling and that “[o]ther food company executives agreed, saying that the fight had become too expensive, especially given the prospect of more state-level initiatives.”

The story kicked into high-gear when the New York Times’ Stephanie Strom covered it last week, adding a few new details, such as the meeting being attended by “20 major food companies” as well as two GMO labeling advocates: Gary Hirshberg, co-chair of the Just Label It federal campaign, and Charles Benbrook, professor at Washington State University. The Times story gave the impression that the meeting is something to celebrate. After all, if Walmart comes to the table, that’s a big deal.

Rats developed tumors. Could that be related to eating GMOs? Hmmm.

But missing from both of these accounts is the ominous potential downside of federal GMO labeling: a sneaky legal concept known as preemption. Most advocates don’t find out about it before it’s too late.

Preemption simply means that a higher law trumps a lower law: so federal trumps state, and state trumps local. But in practice, it’s industry’s way of ensuring uniformity and stopping grassroots efforts. How I do know this? From years of experience of seeing it happen in various public health issues. It’s such a huge problem that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded an entire project called “Preemption and Movement Building in Public Health” to educate advocates about how to handle it.

Here is the pattern: a grassroots effort builds over time to enact local or state laws (such as gun control, indoor-smoking laws, or restricting alcohol sales), and industry fights these efforts for years, until they can no longer win. At that point, industry lobbyists turn around and either get their own weak bill passed, or work with advocates to pass a compromise version. In exchange, this law will preempt or prevent any state or city from passing a different or stronger law. Forever….”

Read more on Civil Eats.

Kids GMO Right to Know Walk in Toronto 2012 (article from The Bovine)

Natural News: Did Proposition 37 really lose or was it vote fraud?

Food Democracy Now: New evidence of vote fraud in Proposition 37

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