NESAWG Policy Director Amy Little Delivers Statement in Support of New York's GMO Labeling Bill

Last week, NESAWG Policy Director Amy Little joined New York State Assembly Member Kevin Cahill, Food and Water Watch, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, and Consumers Union in calling for passage of a New York State bill, A. 617, that would require labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. A. 617 currently has 73 sponsors, nearly half of the Assembly.

The passage of A. 617 will have an impact beyond New York State's borders. If A. 617 becomes law, it would trigger at least one other state-level GMO labeling law to go into effect. Maine passed a GMO labeling law in 2014, but required similar legislation to be adopted in states with a combined population of at least 20 million before the Maine law can be enacted. Vermont passed a GMO labeling bill in 2014 with no trigger clause which takes effect in July of this year. If New York follows suit, the combined population of states with such laws would exceed Maine's 20 million requirement. Connecticut also passed legislation requiring GMO labeling, but the trigger clause in that bill requires four other states, one bordering Connecticut, to have GMO labeling laws and the combined population of those states to be greater than 20 million. Currently three states have passed laws (Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut), though momentum for statewide legislation is building across the country, and several states have introduced bills, including three other states in the NESAWG region: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.

From left to right: Amy Little, NESAWG Policy Director; Liana Hoodes, NOFA-NY; New York State Assembly Member Kevin Cahill; Marissa Bramlett, Food & Water Watch

State-level GMO labeling laws are being considered against the backdrop of various federal bills that would nullify state labeling laws. Last week the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a bill that would preempt Vermont's law and establish a process for creating a national standard for voluntary labeling. The three Northeastern Senators on the Committee—Gillibrand  [D-NY], Casey [D-PA], and Leahy [D-VT]—all voted against the bill. Last year, the House passed legislation that preempts states'  ability to mandate GMO labeling. Other federal bills have also been introduced that would require labeling of GMO ingredients. At the grassroots level, over 90% of consumers support mandatory GMO labeling.

Statement by Amy Little, Policy Director, Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

NESAWG, the Northeast’s food and farming network, would like to thank Assemblyman Cahill for taking a leadership role on the NY GMO Food Labeling Bill (A.617/S.485).

We join with the many groups and the people of New York in urging NY Legislators to support and pass this bill.

In working to make our food system safe, our food economy thriving, and our people informed, the case for GMO labeling is unequivocal.  

Our farmers who grow without genetically modified inputs, provide high quality food to our State’s residents. Without this critical market label, they are at a disadvantage because they cannot distinguish themselves from GMO products in the market.  Our food economy including small, medium,  and large -sized businesses, that produce, aggregate, add-value and deliver our food,  is dependent on knowledgeable people in all sectors of the economy. This food economy is especially dependent on consumer trust and knowledge of our high quality agricultural products. 

There is strong and growing demand for labeling genetically engineered foods across the country - this is what our farmers and food businesses need and what our consumers deserve. 

New York must join other Northeast states and make the choice for our economy, our food safety, and our right to know.  We must give consumers the information they overwhelmingly believe to be important for a host of health, environmental, ethical and religious reasons.


Visit Food and Water Watch's GMO labeling campaign page, Let Me Decide: Label GMOs, for more info.