NEW YORK—On Tuesday, food safety activists passed out leaflets on the streets to raise support for a state GMO food labeling bill that passed the state Codes Committee Tuesday.
They were stationed outside of the Whole Foods on the Lower East Side, offering passersby instructions on how to call New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office to urge him to put the bill to a vote on the Assembly floor. The Whole Foods in located in the speaker’s district.
The GMO labeling bill A 3525 was approved by the committee on a 15–6 vote. It will have to pass through two more committees before it can be put to a vote by the Assembly.
The bill would apply to genetically modified fruits and vegetables and products containing ingredients like oil or sugar that are derived from genetically engineered crops.
A similar bill introduced last year by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal didn’t make it to the floor.
Support for the labeling of GMO products among the American public has consistently been very high, polling in the 90s nationwide in the last few years—yet states have been slow to adopt labeling laws.
“You have some of the largest, most powerful corporations on earth, very powerful biotech giants like Monsanto, and they’ve gone out and spent tens of millions of dollars to beat back these proposals,” said Andy Morrison, who works for The New York Public Interest Research Group.
Just three states currently have laws that require labels on GMO products.
In Connecticut, the law won’t take affect until the number of residents in the Northeastern states who have adopted such laws exceeds 20 million. Maine has a comparable restriction. New York’s introduction of GMO labeling would expedite the process for the whole region.
Some activists think that the passing of A 3525 would be of national significance, as New York has a history of being a political weather vane.
“In New York, we lead on a slew of issues, going all the way back to the Underground Railroad and women’s suffrage. I think here in New York we need to do the same on GMO labeling,” said Alex Beauchamp, regional director of Food & Water Watch.
Beauchamp stressed that GMO labeling is just one of the battles in the fight for food safety, and that there are other threats like corporate consolidation.
“It’s not like everything would be hunky-dory if we passed A 3525, but it is a step in the right direction and it’s one we could take tomorrow,” said Beauchamp.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the affiliation of the woman in the first photograph. She works for the New York Public Interest Research Group. Epoch Times regrets the error.