Source: NJ.com Health
A group of advocates from across the state brought a much-debated national issue to the doorstep of Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4 of Washington Township)…as they gathered at his Washington Township office to rally for a state law requiring companies to label any foods made with genetically modified organisms, or GMO, ingredients.
The group of more than a dozen advocates from the New Brunswick-based organization New Jersey Food and Water Watch gathered to urge Moriarty to support the bill, currently sitting in the Assembly’s Consumer Affairs Committee. Moriarty chairs the committee and his support is necessary for it to proceed. A similar bill made it out of Moriarty’s committee last year and passed through to the health and senior services committee, where it hit a roadblock and never made it to the full assembly for a vote.
The idea behind the legislation is consumer choice, said Jim Walsh, director of New Jersey Food and Water Watch. “What they need to do is label genetically engineered food so people have a choice in what they want to eat,” said Walsh, of New Brunswick.
He and fellow advocates stressed a number of concerns regarding GMO products — its untested effects on humans, the contamination of non-GMO crops, use of pesticides on GMO crops and the control large companies have on agricultural markets that threaten farmers’ livelihoods, among other issues.
They…(held) signs reading “Honk if you hate GMO,” and “I am not a science experiment,” as well as chanting “What do we want? Labels! When do we want them? Now!” before delivering a letter to Moriarty’s office. The letter — signed by more than 100 environmental groups, labor unions, farmers, non-profit organizations and other advocates against GMO foods — pushes legislators to support labeling legislation.
“We have a right to know how much fat and sodium are in our food, and a full list of ingredients is on every box, but due to the influence of biotech companies like Monsanto, we don’t know if the foods we are eating are genetically engineered,” the letter reads, adding later that “Inadequate testing of these crops by government agencies, which rely on industry research and data to verify safety, has left many consumers concerned about the safety of these foods.”
Moriarty — who was not scheduled to be at his Johnson Road office Thursday but has met with Walsh and other advocates twice in the past year — said he takes their concerns very seriously and is open to considering the bill, but pointed out a number of flaws with moving it forward.
First, he noted that the consumer affairs committee currently has hundreds of bills in front of it and limited time, having only met three times this year. He’s concerned about putting this issue above other pressing issues the committee has to address, especially when its unlikely to get any farther in the state legislature than it did when it was first introduced.
Moriarty, who has previously championed food labeling bills — including one requiring companies to label irradiated meats — said that he’s also concerned there isn’t enough research on GMO foods to come to a realistic conclusion on the matter.
“In a void where there’s no actual science that says one thing or another, there are a lot of people that start thinking, ‘Maybe this is why we have this problem or that problem,’ but there’s no science that I can see,” said Moriarty.