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For his dedication and hard work to pass Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) labeling laws and also putting his values to practice in his personal life, we honor Marty Dagoberto as our Green Hero for May

Marty moved to the hill towns with his wife Kalia from New Bedford, MA in 2012. There they were community organizers with a residential energy efficiency program which Kalia founded and co-directed.

In 2014, they started caring for some land and are doing an energy retrofit of an old farm house. With family and friends, they stripped the house down to the studs, sealed the gaps and built thicker walls filled with cellulose insulation. They've installed high efficiency hot water and are working on a solar thermal array for seasonal heat storage and a large scale composting operation. This growing season they will focus on building soil fertility with compost, biochar and mineral amendments. Their livestock will be chickens for eggs, guinea hens to reduce ticks, and worms to turn food scarps into fertilizer.

Marty, who has a degree in biotechnology from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, organizes with Citizens for GMO Labeling, a national nonprofit supporting grassroots GMO labeling initiatives across the country. He is campaign coordinator for MA Right to Know GMOs, a statewide network of volunteer advocates dedicated to protecting our right to know if our food contains GMO ingredients.

“People want to know which foods contain GMO ingredients because of environmental health and ethical concerns” stated Marty. “Although the chemical industry and notable authorities claim that GMO foods are safe, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently determined that Glyphosate, the herbicide most commonly used on GMO crops is a probable human carcinogen.’’

This herbicide, known as Roundup, is made by Monsanto which also sells GMO seeds engineered to withstand this chemical herbicide. Between 1996 and 2011 herbicide-resistant (GMO) crop technology led to a 527 million pound increase in herbicide use in the United States, as weeds have become resistant to the chemicals. The EPA has repeatedly increased “tolerable” limits for glyphosate residues in food. The compound has been found in rainwater and human breast milk.

GMO foods are banned for human consumption in several countries, but in the U S more GMO crops are being introduced into the market, the latest being apples. Herbicide-tolerant biotech plants were grown on 94% of U.S. soybean fields and 93% of U.S. corn fields last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Marty noted that CT, ME and VT passed mandatory labeling laws. CT and ME contain trigger clauses requiring neighboring states to pass similar laws before they take effect, but VT introduced legislation that would remove their trigger clause. A federal judge in Vermont affirmed the constitutionality of Vermont’s GE food labeling law which goes into effect 7/1/ 2016. MA started organizing 2 years ago when 154 legislators (over 75% of the legislature) signed on as co-sponsors.

The MA Coalition for GMO Labeling consists of Citizens for GMO Labeling, MASSPIRG, MA Right to Know GMOs,, NOFA/Mass and more than 330 farms, businesses and organizations.

With more than 30 states considering mandatory GMO labeling, the chemical industry is trying to pass federal legislation that would pre-exempt state law and set the standard for voluntary labeling. In Feb. 2015, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), who is close to the Koch brothers, reintroduced federal legislation written that would simultaneously prevent mandatory federal labeling and deny states the right to enact their own labeling legislation. It creates a pathway for the inclusion of GMOs in products labeled as “natural.” If this legislation known as the DARK (Denying Americans Right to Know) act passes, Marty states, "It would make all of our progress in Massachusetts and the region obsolete".

No Massachusetts Congress people support for the DARK Act. "We need them", Marty says, "to help us pressure their peers in the House and Senate to support MANDATORY GMO labeling."

Marty encourages us to write to our state and federal legislators, (at the state level handwritten letters are better than phone calls or e-mail). Write letters to the editor or organize a community educational event. In February, Greening Greenfield showed "Open Sesame-The Story of Seeds" which addresses how saving organic seeds from our gardens can thwart Monsanto's push to control all food seeds. We can get action updates at the website below and encourage businesses, organizations and farms to support GMO labeling.

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