The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

Growing Organically Since 1982

Big Ag Tries to Preempt State Laws on Farm Practices, GMO Labeling. Our Own Senator Elizabeth Warren Supports Preemption – Contact Her

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2013 September Issue Newsletter

by Jack Kittredge, NOFA/Mass Policy Director

States have long enjoyed the right to regulate
food labels, farm practices (including working
conditions and animal welfare), and many other
activities affecting intrastate health and safety.
In fact, one hundred years ago states were active
“laboratories for democracy” trying out reforms
before they were adopted at the federal level.
Among the ideas first enshrined in state legislation
were woman’s suffrage, the minimum wage, nonpartisan
elections, direct election of US Senators,
municipal home rule, open primaries, worker’s
compensation, progressive taxation, and popular
recall, referendum and initiative.
Now, however, such local ways to address
problems are increasingly conflicting with the
corporate need for uniformity and a level national
(or international) playing field. Reliable sources in
Washington D.C. report that Monsanto has begun
lobbying its Congressional allies to attach one or
more “riders” or amendments to the 2013 Farm
Bill that would preempt or prohibit states from
requiring labels on genetically engineered (GE)
Sure enough, an amendment to the House
version of the Farm Bill, inserted under the guise
of protecting interstate commerce, has passed
out of the House Agricultural Committee. The
amendment was initially proposed by Rep. Steve
King (R-Iowa) in response to a California law
stating that California will allow only eggs to
be sold from hens housed in cages meeting state
standards. But policy analysts believe that the
amendment can be used to prohibit or preempt any
state GMO labeling or food safety law.
Will the King Amendment survive the Senate? No
one can predict what Congress will do this fall, say
analysts. But a chilling vote took place this spring.
During the Farm Bill debate 73 U.S. Senators
voted against the right of states to pass mandatory
GE food labeling laws. Included in those voting
to reject this basic democratic right was our own
Senator, Elizabeth Warren!
I contacted her office right away, hoping to learn
the reason for such an anti-democratic vote, and
educate her about the importance of this issue and
the national movement for labeling to organic
farmers. I received a response from a staffer about
a week later saying that the senator preferred to
deal with such matters as labeling on a national
level. There was no opportunity to reply that the
FDA has refused to label GMOs for many years,
that Monsanto has a powerful lobby and federal
legislation to require labeling has gone nowhere,
or to ask her if she would lead a campaign for
mandatory labeling.
Given the reality of the King Amendment in the
House, perhaps a call or Email to Senator Warren
is in order from our members. Her phone in
Washington is (202) 224-4543. To Email her, go
to and click on the
Email tab. Tell her how concerned you are about
GMOs in your food, how state labeling is the only
way open to you to get relief, and how you wish
she would support this effort, rather than oppose it.

Donate to NOFA/Mass

Become a Member

Subcribe to the Newsletter

-A A +A