By: Amanda Froelich,
Mid-April, the Organic Consumers Association released big news: By a vote of 28-2, the Vermont state Senate passed H.112, a bill that requires mandatory labeling of foods sold in Vermont that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The passed bill will also make it illegal to call any food product containing GMO’s “natural” or “all natural”.
Unlike the bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut, which require four or five other states to pass GMO labeling laws before they can be enacted, this law contains no “trigger” clauses, making it the first “clean” GMO labeling law in the United States.
It will now be sent back to the House where it is expected to pass, and then onto Governor Peter Shumlin who is expected to sign it. He commented on the exciting progression, “I am proud of Vermont for being the first state in the nation to ensure that Vermonters will know what is in their food. The Legislature has spoken loud and clear through its passage of that bill. I wholeheartedly agree with them and look forward to signing [it] into law.”
Ronnie Cummings, the national director of the Organic Consumer Association (OCA), also released the following statement: Today’s victory in Vermont has been 20 years in the making. Ever since genetically modified crops and foods entered the U.S. food supply in the early 1990s, without adequate independent pre-market safety testing and without labels, U.S. consumers have fought to require the labeling of foods containing GMOs.
As summarized in the press release, “Consumer demand for mandatory labeling of GMOs spawned a national grassroots movement that has persevered despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the biotech and food industries to lobby state lawmakers in Vermont, and to fund anti-labeling campaigns in California (2012) and Washington State (2013).”
By passing the bill, consumers and principled legislators made it clear to Monsanto, Coca-Cola, and other opponents of consumers’ right to know that this is an issue the public will not back down from. The movement is clearly here to stay and only continue to grow.
The Organic Consumers Association expects that Monsanto will sue the state of Vermont in order to prevent enactment of H.112. However, they also predict that Monsanto will lose, and the law’s passing will remain on schedule, going into effect on July 1, 2016.
The group also expects that the Grocery Manufactures Association, a multi-billion lobbying group representing more than 300 food, pesticide, and drug makers, will try to pass their “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014” which was introduced early April by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-kan). This act is intended to strip all states of their right to pass GMO labeling laws, but the hard-working campaigners behind Organic Consumers Association believe this will also fail. “We expect that Congress will not pass this law, dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, which seeks to deny consumers the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered, and deny states the right to enact laws designed to protect public health.”
This landmark victory which was passed April 16, 2014 will force food companies to either label GMOs in all states, or reformulate their products to be GMO-free in order to avoid stating “this product was produced using genetic engineering” on the packaging. Oregon is the next state in line to pass a citizens’ ballot GMO-labeling initiative. When that campaign takes off in November, without a shadow of a doubt will it become known that bio-tech and food industries have lost the battle to keep consumers in the dark.
The OCA has worked hard with the pro-labeling grassroots movement in Vermont for several years. Now, congratulations is in order: activists for their passionate pursuit of this law, Vermont lawmakers for having the courage to pass the law, and Vermont citizens for being the first in the country to have the benefits of GMO labels on their food.
Most importantly, OCA affirms their commitment to work with Oregon and other states to pass similar laws, and to fight any and all attempts by industry and/or Congress to overturn these laws.