For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Vermont News page.
For the third time in the last three years a bill (H.112) to label genetically engineered foods (GMOs) has been introduced in the Vermont legislature. Last year a similar bill was passed out of the House Agriculture Committee late in the session with a strong 9 to 1 vote. It was then sent to the Judiciary committee. At about the same time, the Governor indicated in a press conference that he thought the bill would be defeated in court. In the face of public reluctance by the Governor and with time running out in the session, the bill was not taken up by the Judiciary Committee before the legislative session ended in early May.
This year, Rep. Kate Webb, the lead sponsor of the bill last year, has introduced this year's bill with tri-partisan support from 50 co-sponsors, including Democrats, Progressives, Republicans, and the Chair of the Agriculture committee, Carolyn Partridge. This show of support represents 1/3 of the members of the VT House. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees have already scheduled
Michael Hansen, PhD, Senior Scientist from Consumer's Union as their
first witness to testify this week.
At the same time that the bill is being introduced in the House, Sen. David Zuckerman, Vice-Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee will submit a bill for consideration by the Senate this week. Hopefully, major lobbying and grassroots efforts will speed up the process in the short legislative session (Vermont's legislature only meets from January through April or early May).
This year the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition (NOFA, Rural Vermont, VPIRG, & Cedar Circle Farm) has been enhanced by the addition of the Vermont Environmental & Natural Resources Law Clinic which is affiliated with the Vermont Law School. The clinic has written legal memos explaining how a GMO labeling bill would be different from the hormone legislation passed in the 1990s (see below), and would be defensible under the US Constitution.
The Vermont Right to Know coalition, with the help of the Law Clinic, began speaking with state officials on these issues in the fall. We are confident that the state will pass a strong law.
In 1994, Vermont was the first state in the U.S. to pass a law requiring labeling of milk from cows that had been injected with rBST, a genetically modified growth hormone. A suit was brought against the bill and the state defended the bill claiming that there was "a strong consumer interest." In 1996, the Second Circuit Court found that "consumer curiosity" was not sufficient and struck the law under the First Amendment. More than 90% of Vermonters polled in 2012 wanted labeling of GMO foods and the current bill is grounded in the State's interest in human health, environmental protection and preventing consumer deception. There is a growing state, national and international concern over dangerous health and environmental effects of genetically modified food. And, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports these concerns. The state is legally responsible for protecting the health and safety, the environment, and the economy of its citizens. With respect to genetically modified food, the state needs to take responsibility for labeling potentially dangerous products.
Following the discouraging loss of Proposition 37 in California, Vermont activists and the general public are more eager than ever to get the legislature to enact GMO labeling requirements in Vermont. But we need your help to fight Monsanto and its allies in the industrialized food system. We depend on your responses to our e-mail blasts, your letter writing, your e-mails, your phone calls, and your participation in labeling rallies. Let your government leaders know why you are concerned about genetically modified foods, and why you want labeling.
Millions of dollars were spent in the effort to defeat the labeling initiative in California. We can expect Monsanto and its allies to invest considerable resources fighting the legislation proposed in Vermont as well. While the labeling effort will not be as costly as California, where the opponents of GMO labeling spent forty-six million dollars, it won't be cheap. We need financial help to promote the effort, and we will need legal defense donations when we win. Even though it is the state's responsibility to protect our health and safety, and the environment, battling Monsanto and its allies in court will be expensive for Vermont, and the Vermont coalition needs your help. We can be the first state to challenge the industrial food system by exposing the truth about GMO foods.
Please donate today so we can pass this critical piece of legislation.