Vermont Votes Against Frankenfoods

From Agribusiness Examiner #148 3/13/02
By Al Krebs


The residents of 28 Vermont towns have voted overwhelmingly in opposition to
genetically engineered food and crops at their annual town meetings this
week. In 31 towns that debated resolutions on this issue, only one, in the
town of Rochester, was voted down, two were tabled, and the remaining 28
passed. In the capital city of Montpelier, voters approved their resolution
by a 2-1 margin (1577-752).

Most of the resolutions included language stating that genetically
engineered (GE) foods have been shown to cause long-term damage to the
environment, the integrity of rural, family farm economies and can have
serious impacts on human health. Most resolutions called upon state
legislators and the Vermont congressional delegation to support labeling of
GE foods and seeds, as well as a moratorium on the growing of GE crops.

In addition, eight towns took steps toward ending the use of engineered
crops within their towns, whether by declaring a town moratorium or urging
that the planting of GE seeds be actively discouraged within the town. Local
moratoria and other such measures
were passed in Westfield, Jamaica, Greensboro, Calais, Marshfield, Ripton,
Walden, and Charlotte.

"Once again, Vermonters have spoken out through their town meetings on an
issue of vital importance to our towns and all of humanity," said Heather
Albert-Knopp of the Institute for Social Ecology's Biotechnology Project,
based in Plainfield. The Project provided information and support for
activists who wanted to bring the resolutions to their towns. Staff members
at the Vermont Genetic Engineering Action Network and the farm advocacy
group Rural Vermont were also involved in the effort.

"The more people know about genetically engineered food, the more they
oppose it, but so far corporate lobbyists have prevented the state and
federal governments from acting," Albert-Knopp said. "In our town meetings,
however, people's real concerns can take precedence over special interests."

"It's about the freedom to govern ourselves," said Ben Grosscup, who spoke
in favor of Marshfield's resolution. "The biotechnology industry, the
federal government and international bodies like the World Trade
Organization are trying to make us forget that we can have that kind of

"Ordinary people were pretty angry about the fact that engineered foods are
not labeled," said Joey Klein, an organic farmer who presented the
resolution in Plainfield. "The idea of a moratorium on planting genetically
engineered crops also made sense to people because they felt they were being
treated like guinea pigs." Klein explained that a moratorium was needed to
protect the vast majority of farmers who choose not to plant GE crops, but
are subject to genetic contamination from engineered varieties.

Susan Borg, who presented the resolution in Lincoln, said, "I don't want
GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in my food, especially because they
have not been tested. Also, we can't have GE pollen blowing into our farms.
Contamination will make organic farmers lose their certification. Farms will
be lost, which will hurt the property tax base. This problem affects
everybody. Beside, the idea that Monsanto can sue farmers for growing crops
that were contaminated with their own GE pollen --- and win --- is

Resolutions opposing the genetic engineering of food passed this week in
Montpelier, Calais, Marshfield, Walden, Putney, Plainfield, Woodbury,
Jamaica, Lincoln, Waitsfield, Wheelock, Greensboro, Wolcott, Monkton,
Ripton, Hinesburg, Randolph, Bristol, Moretown, Warren, Fayston, Marlboro,
Charlotte, Westfield, Newfane, Brookline, Montgomery and Westiminster.
Starksboro passed a similar resolution at last year's town meeting. Town
selectboards have previously passed such resolutions in Norwich, Guilford
and Dummerston, and the Burlington City Council has called for labeling,
thorough regulation and clearer liability rules regarding GE crops and food
in a resolution passed in September of 2000.

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