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Policy Update: GMO Labeling, Farm Bill Defeat (for now), Beacon Hill Crunch Time

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2018 June Issue Newsletter

By Marty Dagoberto, Policy Coordinator

It’s here: Public Comments needed on Federal “GMO labeling” scheme

It may feel like ancient history, but our members might remember July 2016 when Congress passed and then President Obama signed a federal “GMO labeling” law designed largely by Monsanto and friends to keep consumers in the DARK about what we’re eating and supporting with our food purchases.

On May 3, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its long-awaited proposed regulations for the mandatory disclosure of foods produced using genetic engineering (GE), commonly known as GMOs. These rules will implement the 2016 federal law requiring those GE disclosures, establishing many details on how the disclosures will be implemented. They have already started a public comment period ending July 3, 2018.

This is our chance to weigh in and to demonstrate that eaters across the country STILL want to know what they’re buying, and that digital codes and other loopholes just won’t cut it. Our demand remains the same: clear, concise, on-package labeling of ingredients produced with genetic engineering!

Please join NOFA/Mass and our coalition of local and national partners participating in this public comment period, and please spread the word to all the conscious eaters in your life. Please click here to view a detailed breakdown of our concerns with the language to help you decide what to say (provided by our friends at the Center for Food Safety).

Unique and personalized comments will have the greatest impact. Please also note that the USDA is not treating email or web-based petitions as a valid form of comments. Please submit comments via their official regulations.gov form.

Comments can be submitted directly to the federal government via regulations.gov

Here is a direct link to the docket (AMS-TM-17-0050-0004): http://bit.ly/labelGMOcomments

The Regulations.gov page also includes “Tips for submitting effective comments.

The rules are the final step in a decades-long process of demanding and securing GMO food labeling in the United States at the state and now at the federal level. As such, public comment will be extremely important. The importance of comments is even further magnified by the fact that the USDA proposal presents a range of alternatives and makes few decisions, leaving uncertainty about the final outcome on critical points.

We know that the final GMO labeling rule is likely to be far from ideal for consumers, but we have a very real opportunity to mitigate how bad it might be. Please take action and pass this message on and encourage others to take action.

Partisan Farm Bill defeated (for now)!

On Friday May 18 the disastrous and partisan House draft of the Federal Farm Bill was defeated 198-213 (hoo-ray)!  Please see last month’s policy update for a breakdown of our opposition to the draft. Unfortunately this draft isn’t dead yet. It looks like a re-vote in the House is unlikely to happen until mid-late June, so there is an increased possibility that the Senate version will move first. Our action alert targeting our Senators (Warren and Markey) is still very much in effect. Please see our action page for details and call your senators early and often!

Special thanks to Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern for is outspoken advocacy on behalf of our nation’s farmers and working families. Here’s a great video of him in action, railing against the partisan and hurtful nature of this farm bill draft.

Crunch time on Beacon Hill!

The two year legislative session ends at the end of July. With the House budget out of the way, advocacy groups and lobbyists are doing everything they can to get their bills of interest to the top of the stack. Of the thousands of bills introduced each year, only a few make it though…

Will the incredibly popular Pollinator Protection Act (with 135 out of 200 cosponsors!) make it to the top before time runs out? With chemical industry lobbyists urging legislators to just let this commonsense restriction on bee-killing neonics fall to the wayside, legislators really need to hear from YOU and your networks. Please share our dedicated pollenACTION page.

And as mentioned last month, the Healthy Soils Bill is moving! The entirety of the Healthy Soils Bill language (H.3713) was included in the Agriculture Committee redraft of Governor Baker’s Environmental Bond Bill (H.4438). This makes perfect sense, as healthy soil practices present truly shovel-ready methods for climate change mitigation! This bill aims to support soil restoration by creating a Healthy Soils Program within the MA Dept. of Agriculture (MDAR). Please contact your state rep and senator and ask them to “please support the Healthy Soils Amendment to the Governor's Climate Resiliency Bond Bill.” You can read more about the language on our policy action page.

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