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Vermont Passes a GMO-Label Law. How Did They Do It?

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Genetic Engineering Page, Millions Against Monsanto Page and our Vermont News Page.

My husband is a New Englander from the Boston area, and over the years we have been together, I have learned a few things about this breed of American: When they want to get something done, they get it done.

California and Washington state couldn't get it done. Connecticut has contingencies linked to their law that will inhibit, if not prevent it from going into effect. But tiny Vermont stood up to the giants of the bio-tech industry and won the day.

How?

According to The Burlington Free Press, the answer is simpler than we might want to think. Sure, there was hard work done by the people, grassroots organizations who spoke loudly and clearly about their right to know what is in their food. But in the end, it came down to this: Senator Bobby Starr and his colleagues were bombarded by phone calls, postcards, letters and emails urging them to pass the bill.

"What it came down to is the people I represent wanted it," said Starr, a Democrat who represents relatively conservative Essex and Orleans counties. "In the end I said, 'Well, individual rights are more important than an industry's rights."

It came down to representatives deciding to do the will of the people rather than the will of industry and business.

The senator admits he had given little thought to GMOs before this bill, but his people -- the people for whom he works -- said they wanted this, and he did the work and made it happen... for his people. It's how democracy is supposed to work.

The Vermont legislature has passed this bill despite the threat of a lawsuit hanging over their heads by -- you guessed it -- the food manufacturers lobby, the handmaiden of the bio-tech industry. They passed it due to a well-organized, well-funded, well-informed bunch of activists who launched one of the biggest grassroots efforts the state had ever seen. They did it without scare tactics and hysterics. They did it through persistent unrelenting work, use of social media to get the word out (it can be useful after all, not just a hellscape of "selfies")... and more than two decades of experience resisting GMO's in agriculture in Vermont. There is nothing more formidable than a well-educated activist.

In 2004, after years of opposition to GM crops, Vermont lawmakers passed the first law in the nation requiring the labeling of GMO seeds. Sadly, that law was never enforced but it did pave the way for the victory we have just seen.

This victory is especially sweet considering a label law failed to pass in 2011. A more refined version of the law has passed opening the door for other states to do similar work.

But there is a big "if" attached to this idea.        


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