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States Brace for Monsanto's 'Big Stick' in GMO Labeling Fight

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Maine News page.

Grassroots groups across the United States are mobilizing against the nation's powerful biotech firms as a new round of labeling laws for foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) make their way through state legislatures.

The front lines in this battle have shifted to two New England states where legislators are preparing to vote on GMO labeling laws while backers prepare for a legal assault by large industry firms like Monsanto.

"The biotech [industry] is seeing growing mass support across the US and they have fewer useful resources to combat truthfulness and popular support," said Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), in an interview with Common Dreams. "Their 'big stick' now is litigation."

Biotech firms, including Monsanto and other 'Big Ag' industry groups, were behind the defeat of an earlier labeling initiative, California's Proposition 37, after bankrolling a widespread misinformation campaign.

Gerritsen's statement came on the heels of a small victory in Maine Tuesday night when the Legislature's Agriculture Committee voted 8-5 to approve Bill L.D. 718 which would prohibit retailers from labeling a product "natural" if it contains GMOs. 

The vote followed the Friday passage of Bill H.112 by the Vermont House of Representatives which requires foods containing GMOs to be labeled, marking the "furthest any such legislation has made it through the legislative process in the United States," according to PR Watch.

The New England states are just two of a coalition of thirty-seven states currently mobilizing for GMO labeling. Of these, twenty now have legislation slated for introduction this year.

A local paper reports that one third of Vermont's legislators were co-sponsors, "signaling the bill's broad public support." Similarly, according to Gerritsen, an astounding 91 percent of Mainers favor the labeling of genetically modified foods.