GMO Update: VT Labeling Bill Passes House, Heads for Senate

'Label GMO' Right-to-Know rally

GMO labeling bill H. 112 passed the VT House last week, and heads for the Senate in January 2014. The bill’s early strong performance is (yet another) indicator of the overwhelming shift in public consciousness — and public policy — towards more responsible labeling of foods containing GMOs.  Congratulations democracy, and congratulations Vermont! Now: KEEP IT UP!

The bill would require labeling for foods sold in VT containing genetically modified ingredients, and would go into effect 2 years after passing — or 18 months after at least 2 other states mandate GMO labeling, whichever comes first. Food pundits on both sides of the issue expect Monsanto and possibly other biotech corporations to stomp their giant litigious feet in apoplectic rage, since the very last thing they want is for consumers to be allowed to choose whether or not to buy their products.

So, ok, yes: Vermont has a weak record on standing up to bullies. But presumably they wouldn’t be bringing a labeling bill to the table again, if they just plan to run away squealing (like last time) when Monsanto says ‘boo!’ to representative democracy.

GMO 101

Genetically engineered foods flooded the US market, unlabeled, back in the 1990s. In 2005, Alaska passed a law requiring fish and mollusks raised in that state to be labeled if they were genetically engineered; since then we’ve seen a steady escalation in public demand for fair and accurate labeling of genetically modified foods.

There is no question that American consumers want to know if they’re eating GMOs. Depending on which poll you read, 93% to 96% of Americans want the right to know whether they’re eating genetically modified food.

US consumers expect fair and accurate food labeling. Consider some highlights from FDA history:

1906 The original Food and Drugs Act is passed. It prohibits interstate commerce in mis-branded and adulterated foods, drinks and drugs…

1924 The Supreme Court rules that the Food and Drugs Act condemns every statement, design, or device on a product’s label that may mislead or deceive, even if technically true

1938 A revised and expanded Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FDC) Act of 1938 is passed. Highlights include: safe tolerances to be set for unavoidable poisonous substances, standards of identity, quality, and fill-of-container to be set for foods, and authorization of factory inspections…

1958 Food Additives Amendment enacted, requiring manufacturers of new food additives to establish safety. Going forward, manufacturers were required to declare all additives in a product

1962 President Kennedy proclaims the Consumer Bill of Rights. Included are the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, and the right to be heard

1965 Fair Packaging and Labeling Act requires all consumer products in interstate commerce to be honestly and informatively labeled, including food.

Given this set of guidelines supposedly in place for US food, the ongoing lack of GMO labeling is a tribute to the biotechnology industry’s resourcefulness and determination to avoid it.

Last year Monsanto broke out its jackboots to trample a 2012 labeling initiative in VT, and then spent a bazillion bucks to (narrowly) defeat CA’s prop 37 last November. But the GMO labeling issue (like agitation for slavery abolition, or hand-washing for physicians, or women’s suffrage, or civil rights for minorities, etc. etc. etc.) just won’t seem to accommodate the desperate demands of those in power who wish it would go away.

Instead — so sorry, Monsanto! — it just keeps gaining momentum, as people around the country become infected with the wild and crazy desire to know what they’re eating, and what they’re feeding their families.

Explore here, for more on the GMO and/or GMO labeling issues so deserving of public (and therefore continued legislative) attention:

What Can You Do?

The movement for fair labeling of GMOs grows daily, as ever more people realize what’s at stake. If you’re in VT, contact Vermont Right to Know GMOs to get involved!

Don’t live in VT? No worries! Use these strategies to clamor for (long overdue) change, regarding our approach to GMOs and the labeling thereof:

  1. Vote your dollar! Buy organic or Non-GMO food every chance you get, until we see change on this issue. Reward producers who aren’t trying to trick you into eating stuff you wouldn’t buy if they labeled it. Go here to learn more about non-GMO shopping.
  2. The only thing legislators hate more than lawsuits is bad press! Write a letter to the editor of your favorite local publication, and share information about this issue on all your social networks — the more people who know about GMO labeling issues, the harder it is for politicians to crumple like wet paper bags before Monsanto’s legal foot-stomping.
  3. If you live in a state with pending GMO labeling legislation, agitate! Call, write, and generally pester your representatives to demand accurate labeling of genetically engineered foods. Volunteer with a local Right to Know Group. Vote! And bring people with you!
  4. Join GMO Free USA, to supplement legislative action by also taking the labeling issue directly to food manufacturers. Recent history tells us we can’t depend on legislators not to drop that GMO labeling ball. By applying dollar-driven pressure to the bottom line, we can pressure the food industry to sell what we’re interested in buying — and each ounce of pressure applied to the problem exponentially increases the likelihood of progress!

Consumer knowledge plus action equals change — and whether Monsanto likes it or not, that change seems to be happening. So good job, Vermont! The nation’s watching…

Keep up the good work!

Image credit: Creative Commons photo by quinn.anya.

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