by Rebekah Wilce
In an advance that makes history, Vermont’s House of Representatives passed a bill on May 10 requiring foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled. This is the furthest any such legislation has made it through the legislative process in the United States.
Vermont’s legislative session was due to end already, but negotiations over a tax bill have kept lawmakers in the capitol this week. With the Senate’s attention focused fiscally rather than on food, however, H.112 to label GMOs will have to wait to be taken up by the Senate in January 2014.
The bill would exempt animal products, including meat and dairy, even though livestock are often fed genetically engineered (GE) feed.
State Faces Threat of Monsanto Lawsuit
GMO labeling legislation has been stalled in the Vermont legislature for three years, in part because of a concern that biotechnology companies would sue the state if it passed. The concern seems justified, asMonsanto — the world’s largest GE seed company — reportedly threatened to do so last year.
According to Organic Consumers Association Executive Director Ronnie Cummins and Vermont farmer Will Allen, “Monsanto has used lawsuits or threats of lawsuits for 20 years to force unlabeled genetically engineered foods on the public, and to intimidate farmers into buying their genetically engineered seeds and hormones.”
GMO Labeling Bills Across the Country
California’s Prop 37 to label GMOs was narrowly defeated in 2012, as the Center for Media and Democracyreported. Afterwards, Jennifer Hatcher, senior vice president of government and public affairs for the Food Marketing Institute, who had previously said that Prop 37 “scared us to death,” said in an official statement, “This gives us hope that you can, with a well-funded, well-organized, well-executed campaign, defeat a ballot initiative and go directly to the voters. We hope we don’t have too many of them, because you can’t keep doing that over and over again . . .”
Contrary to industry hopes, however, similar bills have been introduced in Connecticut, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Arizona, Illinois, and Iowa in 2013. Food and Water Watch and other organizations are encouraging supporters to petition for a national GE labeling law. The passage in the Vermont House of Representatives of that state’s long-sought labeling bill marks an important and historic step towards realizing eaters’ right to know whether or not foods contain GMOs.
Tens of Thousands to “March Against Monsanto” Worldwide
Frustrated with Monsanto’s bullying of governments and farmers in the United States and abroad, tens of thousands of activists around the world will “March Against Monsanto” on Saturday, May 25, according to organizers.
Marches on six continents, in 36 countries, and in 47 U.S. states — totaling events in over 250 cities — are coordinated to occur simultaneously at 11am Pacific time. A Facebook page founded in February has been instrumental in organizing the events.
Goals of the march’s organizers include:
- “Voting with your dollar by buying organic and boycotting Monsanto-owned companies that use GMOs in their products.
- “Labeling of GMOs so that consumers can make those informed decisions easier.
- “Repealing relevant provisions of the US’s ‘Monsanto Protection Act.‘
- “Calling for further scientific research on the health effects of GMOs.
- “Holding Monsanto executives and Monsanto-supporting politicians accountable through direct communication, grassroots journalism, social media, etc.
- “Continuing to inform the public about Monsanto’s secrets.
- “Taking to the streets to show the world and Monsanto that we won’t take these injustices quietly.”