Last week, we were told that introduction of a Senate bill to kill GMO labeling was “imminent.” When the bill never materialized, its sponsor, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), told the press that it “wasn’t ready yet.”
Now we know why. It seems that Gary Hirshberg, chairman of the board of JustLabelIt (JLI), along with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), are working behind the scenes to broker an (unacceptable) compromise, and to sell that compromise to the GMO labeling movement.
Reliable sources tell us that the compromise Hirshberg, Vilsack and Stabenow are floating is one that would delay implementation of Vermont’s GMO labeling law for two years, while giving corporations the option to adopt QR barcode technology to label GMO ingredients.
Any compromise that lets food companies off the hook for mandatory, on-package labels, and preempts or delays Vermont’s law is unacceptable. Such a compromise would sound the death knell for the GMO labeling movement. A two-year delay in Vermont means Vermont’s law is as good as dead.
We don’t need this compromise. Roberts himself has suggested that any bill preempting Vermont’s law would likely not get Senate approval—not during an election year, and especially not during an election year marked by a contentious debate over a Supreme Court vacancy. But a bill just delaying Vermont’s law? That bill might pass, and be signed into law.
We've fought too long and too hard for Vermont's GMO labeling law to let corporate greed and corrupt politics steal this victory out from under us.
We also will continue to voice our opposition, often and loudly, to Roberts' bill, or any bill that would preempt Vermont. That's where all our efforts should be focused—not on a compromise that serves no one but Monsanto and Big Food.
We can only speculate as to why Hirshberg would be meeting with U.S. Senators to convince them to delay Vermont’s law and support a QR code scheme that the majority of consumers reject. Last year, OCA called out Hirshberg for hosting a $2700-a-plate fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. Clinton is a big fan of Monsanto and GMOs. Tom Philpott reminded us this week about a 2013 Food & Water Watch report revealing that under Clinton, the U.S. State Department conducted a "concerted strategy to promote agricultural biotechnology overseas, compel countries to import biotech crops and foods they do not want, and lobby foreign governments—especially in the developing world—to adopt policies to pave the way to cultivate biotech crops."
Is Hirshberg cozying up to Vilsack and Clinton? Hoping for a plum assignment in a Clinton administration?
JLI promotes itself as the poster child of GMO labeling advocacy. We hope its board of directors will stand with consumers and the GMO labeling movement, and reject this ill-conceived compromise.
If they don’t, donors to JLI should ask for refunds.