Vermont passed first state GMO labeling Bill.
The people of Vermont passed GMO bill “H.112” ignoring the corporate flack they would receive after passing it.
On April 23rd 2014 Vermont passed its GMO labeling bill through the House and the Senate; however it won’t go into effect until 2016. Other states such as Connecticut and California have tried this process, but couldn’t get it passed in those states. Robert A. Starr a Vermont senator stated, “what it came down to is the people I represent wanted it,” said Starr.(Burlington Free Press) Starr is a senator for the democratic party who believes in the will and rights of the people to know what is being put in their food. Labeling the food will now allow people to know what they are buying in all products on the store shelf, whereas before you didn’t have to label how the food was processed. The bill will also prohibit companies from labeling GMO tainted foods as natural. GMO stands for genetically modified Organisms. A GMO is an organism whose genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there. (Webster dictionary definition)
I conducted an interview with a Bradford, Vermont resident Thomas Watkin. Watkin has a BA from Dartmouth and a J.D. from Vermont Law School. While interviewing Watkin I asked what his thoughts were on the GMO labeling bill which passed in his state he replied, “It makes me proud to be a resident of a state that is yet again at the forefront of American social change.” Vermont was at the forefront for legalizing gay marriage back in 2009. The state has really pushed the envelope for the rights of their citizens. “Vermonters are iconoclastic independent people who don’t want their food and their lives engineered by Monsanto and Archer Daniel Midlands Corporation”, said Watkin. The people of Vermont are beginning to realize they deserve to know how their food is produced so that is why they chose to pass the GMO bill.
This bill would provide labeling of foods in stores as well as restaurants, basically any place you would purchase food. For instance right now, Taco Bell states on their website that “our seasoned beef recipe consists of 88% premium beef and 12% signature recipe.”(Taco Bell ingredients statement) The problem here is who knows what is considered premium beef and who knows what is in the 12 percent signature recipe; this would not be allowed with the GMO bill. People would know exactly what is in the meat being used, so people would no longer be eating unknown ingredients in their food. This bill would give people the choice of knowing what the food companies are putting in the foods they are buying and consuming.
Michael Porada from Chicago Illinois with a BS in Biology from Loyola and DDS from Loyola was also pleased that the bill passed stating “it’s good that the bill passed, but Monsanto will fight it in every way possible.” Monsanto has been threatening to sue the entire state of Vermont over the labeling bill. “State Attorney General Bill Sorrell stated on Vermont public radio that he would be very surprised if the state isn’t sued over the law.”(Washington Post) However, Vermont is taking a strong stance for the bill and in order to prevent the bill from being taken down by a lawsuit Vermont has created a 1.5 million dollar legal defense fund to protect the bill. It’s not a guarantee that Vermont will be sued, but if the circumstance presents its self they are ready for legal actions. Michael Porada said “a law suit would be one way for corporate business to fight the bill. The other would be to support legislation in the US Congress that would essentially nullify state laws. They won’t do it alone, but they would do it together with other large agribusiness in a lobby group.” The reason for the lawsuit Porada says is because “Monsanto is worried about the same policy that passed in Vermont passing in other states.” The companies are worried because if consumers see that the product has harmful chemicals in it, the companies business will deteriorate. “Corporations look out for their bottom line. GMO seeds will produce higher yields at lower cost for major food producers. As the seed is patented and costs more, it means higher profits for Monsanto”, said Porada. If this GMO bill becomes contagious and starts passing in other states, Monsanto and other corporations will begin to suffer, so this is why they will fight it.
According to a Huffington Post article a few major food companies are trying to break their ties with Monsanto (which is a publicly traded American multinational chemical and agricultural corporation) such as General Mills, Post Foods, Chipotle, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s by eliminating some GMO products or in some cases all products that contain GMO’s.
The people are matched against corporate Goliath’s, but it’s a fight that can be won through diligence. If food labeling picks up momentum and gets more people active in promoting GMO labeling it can be a force to be reckoned with. Though there’s a lot of momentum in favor of supporting GMO labeling, all it will take is fear of rising food costs to slam the coffin shut and end the push for GMO labeling once and for all.