Vermont goes it alone in GMO labeling fight

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While Maine's new GMO bill appears dead in the water for this year, Vermont is standing alone and moving forward in its battle to enact a bill requiring GMO labeling beginning in July 2016..

GMO, or genetically modified organisms, are in many of our crops already, but what food activists across the country are furious about is that the federal government does not now require food producers list their presence on food labels.

Genetically modified organisms are DNA splice organisms inserted into our food crops that repel bugs and disease to ensure crop production. However, when we eat those foods those same organisms are then in us, and many scientists believe more studies need to be done to make sure it is safe. Other studies have shown they, in fact, are not only not safe, but profoundly dangerous to our health.

Food giants are fighting the anti-GMO effort tooth and nail. In Vermont, the Grocery Manufacturers Association is threatening to stop selling many food products in the state beginning next July when the law that mandates labeling takes effect.

Meanwhile, in Maine, a largely GOP contingent on the Agricultural Committee voted to table the bill till next year, said Katherine Paul of the Organic Consumers Association.

"Basically Republicans on the committee opposed it, and just kicked the can down the road," Paul told The Lebanon Voice today.

Paul and her association are calling on anti-GMO activists to call and thank Vermont Gov. Shumlin for his courage in standing up to Monsanto, which produces most of the GMOs, and their powerful lobbying interests.

Maine did pass a GMO labeling bill two years ago, but it included a "trigger" clause which said the bill wouldn't take effect until five contiguous states passed similar laws.

This year's bill in the Maine legislature (LD 991) would've taken away the trigger allowing the state to act unilaterally like Vermont. Paul said Monsanto lobbyists were up in Augusta in full force to make sure that didn't happen, and they succeeded.

Moreover, Paul called Republican support of the earlier GMO labeling bill dubious at best, as Republicans knew New Hampshire would never pass such a bill, and with the "trigger" component alive, neither would Maine.

"New Hampshire doesn't even have a bill in the Legislature," Paul said.

Now the only sure avenue in Maine is a citizen's petition and referendum, she said, which would cost at least $2 million dollars given the deep pockets Monsanto commands.

Back in Vermont Gov. Shumlin is finding out just how powerful Monsanto and their confederates are.

The Grocery Manufacturing Association sued the state of Vermont a week after Gov. Shumlin signed the state's GMO labeling bill into law. A district court judge, however, recently rejected the GMA's request for an injunction in order to keep the law from taking effect next year. The judge's 84-page decision affirmed the constitutionality of Vermont's law against the objections of Monsanto.

Meanwhile, H.R. 1599, a federal bill introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo, is making its way through Congress. H.R. 1599, dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act would not only pre-empt Vermont's GMO labeling law, but would prevent any state or local government from passing GMO labeling laws or GMO crop bans. The bill would also weaken the system for approving new GMO crops.

"Sixty-seven countries that represent 65 percent of the world's population have already embraced transparency through GMO labelling," said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association. "This latest ploy by the GMA to intimidate Gov. Shumlin and Vermont lawmakers is, frankly, pathetic."

(Editor's note: To read more about GMOs and May's March Against Monsanto in Rochester, click here.)

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