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Special Alert! It's Make or Break Time—Act Now to Make GMO Labeling a Reality across the US

mike pompeo

Currently, Americans are standing at a crossroads: one way leads to certain labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods across the country; the other will lead toward the elimination of that possibility.

If you've never taken action on this issue before, I urge you to do so now. We need every single American who cares about this issue to make their opinion known very clearly to their federal representatives.

According to recent polls done by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), over 90 percent of the public definitely wants to know what's in their food.

Demands for labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were recently stimulated even further when the prestigious International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization declared glyphosate a "probable carcinogen."1,2

Research3 has also revealed that inert ingredients like ethoxylated adjuvants in glyphosate-based herbicides are "active principles of human cell toxicity." They also suspect that4 Roundup might interfere with hormone production, possibly leading to abnormal fetal development, low birth weights, or miscarriages.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, is sprayed heavily on 84 percent of all GMO crops, including soy, corn, canola, and sugar beets—all the key ingredients in processed foods.

After reviewing 44 scientific studies, half of the IARC panel thought that glyphosate should be classified as a Group 1 "known carcinogen," with the other half opting for a Group 2 "probable carcinogen" rating.

Environmental groups recently sent a letter5 to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for the agency to reexamine the safety of glyphosate in light of the IARC's determination.

As noted by Ronnie Cummins of the OCA,6 "Given the fact that new peer-reviewed studies damning glyphosate are being published nearly every week, the IARC may very well reclassify glyphosate as a 'known carcinogen' in the near future."

But merely hoping and wishing for labeling that will help you avoid GMOs won't make it happen. Action is absolutely required at this time, and here's why.

Major Victory for Vermont—Federal Judge Upholds GMO Labeling Law

On April 16, 2014, the Vermont Senate passed the first no-strings-attached GMO labeling bill (H.112) by an overwhelming margin—28-2. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on April 23.

The bill was immediately attacked by industry. Spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), they sued Vermont to block the implementation of the law.

On April 27, 2015, Judge Christina Reiss ruled in Vermont's favor.7 The law stands, and will go into effect on July 1, 2016. As reported by Vermont Right to Know GMOs:8

"The judge also dismissed a number of the plaintiffs' claims including assertions that the law violates the commerce clause and was expressly preempted by federal law.

Possibly, the most important aspect of the ruling is that the law's requirement that GMOs be labeled is constitutional under the First Amendment...

'The GMO food giants aren't used to losing, but they were just knocked on their collective keister by the state of Vermont,' said VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns. 'Consumers across the country will no doubt take notice.'"

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has asked the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to overturn the April 27 ruling. GMA president Pamela Bailey issued a statement saying:  

“The court’s opinion in denying our request to block the Vermont law opens the door to states creating mandatory labeling requirements based on pseudo-science and web-fed hysteria. If this law is allowed to go into effect, it will disrupt food supply chains, confuse consumers, and lead to higher food costs.”

Bailey also stressed that the federal court’s ruling—which determined that existing US law does not preempt state’s GMO labeling laws—“shows why Congress should pass the voluntary uniform GMO labeling bill quickly and federally preempt state mandatory GMO laws.”

It’s a big risk for them to appeal, because if they lose – and from the judge’s comments it’s going to be very hard to overturn – it’s going to be a tough blow to their federal ambitions of passing the Pompeo bill. That would then leave them with a final option, a Supreme Court ruling.  

While there are questions about the impact former Monsanto man Clarence Thomas may have on the case, a Supreme Court ruling in GMA’s favor would invalidate 150 state laws that have existed for decades.  From wild rice, maple syrup, and Alaskan seafood – these are all enforced labeling standards that were created by the states.

This would be extremely difficult for them to justify. Their only chance is through the interstate commerce clause, but it would be one of the most bizarre things to take place in the food industry.
That said, by the time they get to Supreme Court, Vermont’s law will already be in place---it will likely be in place before the appeal will even take place. July 1, 2016 is the date as of which GMOs must be labeled in Vermont. So while Monsanto and the GMA will most certainly push this all the way to the Supreme Court, in the meantime they still have to start labeling their foods. This is an enormous victory, and the Vermont team deserves much appreciation from all of us.