As the NYS legislature ends its session, it is clear that although we didn’t win this year and despite interruptions in the legislative process from corruption scandals, the GMO Labeling bill did better this year than last. The bill to label GMOs in NYS, A 617-S 485, was a top priority for NOFA-NY policy action this year, and we were active participants in the NYS GMO Labeling Coalition, along with Food and Water Watch, GMOFree NY, Hunger Action, Consumers Union, NYPIRG, Natural Resources Defense Council, Catskill Mountaineer, Fire Dog Lake, Good Boy Organics, Green Party of New York, the Brooklyn Food Coalition and the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. All our groups worked well together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.
We started out the legislative session of 2015 with a lobby day in Albany in late January, the day after our annual Winter Conference and participated in the organization and execution of a second rally and lobby day in April, which brought out more than 300 people from across the state. There were also dozens of smaller actions in critical districts and a big noise from the March against Monsanto, May 23. The coalition collected 43,000 signatures on petitions to the legislature in support of the bill.
By June, the Coalition was sure that there were enough Assembly members and Senators signed on to the bill to pass it in both houses if the leadership could only be persuaded to take it to the floor for a vote. The bill advanced through the Consumer Protection committees in both houses, then as far as Rules in the Senate and Codes in the Assembly. Our guess is that behind the scenes, legislators were saying “let’s not have to go on record for or against that one.”
As Stacie Orell, staffer for GMOFreeNY, noted:
“Nonetheless, onward we march. We will continue to work hard during the so-called “off season” to spread public awareness about GMOs and labeling, educate legislators on the issue and combat the misinformation spread by the incredibly well-funded oppo$ition campaign, and ramp up for next year’s fight. It’s only a matter of time before we join the rest of the world and get the right to know, it’s just gonna take longer than we’d like!”
It’s worthy to note that bills in all other states that have moved through legislatures have also taken years, and Vermont’s successful bill took 3-4 years to win. NOFA-NY will be back at it in the next session, and asking more of all NOFA members to convince their state legislators. Thanks for your hard work this year!