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Policy

Many NOFA/Mass members responded to our Action Alert last month and contacted their legislators to ask them to co-sponsor HD 369, the new GMO labeling bill (the number may change soon as it goes from a House Docket number to a House Bill number). You will be pleased to hear that your work, plus that of the other members of our coalition – MASSPIRG, MoveOn.org, and MassRight2KnowGMO, has resulted in a majority of members of the Massachusetts Legislature, both House and Senate, having cosponsored the bill!

While much of our policy agenda requires action at higher levels – carbon policy, National Organic Program standards and procedures, use of antibiotics in livestock production, etc. – much is also focused at the state level. With the federal changeover in party control of the U. S. Senate, many food and farming advocates are expecting little progress in Washington this year (if not some defensive battles to hold on to what we have) and are looking for state governments to be where positive action is possible.

In September 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released several revised sections of proposed food safety regulations originally proposed in early January 2013:

NOFA/Mass, as you know, has been fighting an intense two-year battle to pass GMO food and seed labeling in Massachusetts. Last session our coalition came closer than we have ever done, and had a majority of legislators signed up in support of the bill. But House leadership kept the lid on tight and we could never get it out of the key committee to the floor for a full vote.

The Massachusetts Legislature has passed two important changes in the way small farms are treated under the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system.

One morning in early March of this year, I received a phone call from a man who seemed rather young and uncertain about what he had to say and how to say it. He started to tell me that there was a planned “natural” gas pipeline that would “hug” the corridor between the towns of Ashfield and Plainfield, a magnificent, hilly, and sparsely populated agricultural region in western Massachusetts. I own a 43-acre farm in Ashfield – a town with a population of about 1,100.

The FDA is rolling out a set of sweeping regulations that are changing the way food is cultivated and prepared. Participants will gain an understanding of 1) The Food Safety Modernization Act 2) civil liabilities arising from food safety issues on the farm 3) potential consequences of food borne illnesses caused by farm products and 4) risk mitigation.

I’ll explain the expanding federal and state crackdown on private food sales—farm raids, court suits, trials, arrests—why it’s happening, how it’s moved beyond raw milk into meat and eggs, why it is nearly certain to expand into veggies via the Food Safety Modernization Act, and how communities and farmers can fight back.

On March 17, 2014, the joint legislative committee on Agriculture favorably reported out a redrafted bill calling for mandatory labeling of food or seeds containing GMOs! We are grateful to the legislators on the committee for listening to the growing concern about GMOs.

Things are happening on the GMO labeling front. I can’t promise you a law this year, but thanks to tremendous popular interest and support, we are beginning to make progress in the legislature.

First off, NOFA/Mass has hired a part time organizer, Amie Lindenboim, to work on this issue. She is an attorney, has been a volunteer and activist fighting GMOs for several years, and is a mother with two young children. Amie lives in Brookline and has already represented us at the State House and in area meetings.

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