The Vermont Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act (H.722): Vermonters Want to Know What is in the Food Their Money Buys
The Vermont Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act (H.722) would require the labeling of genetically modified food products sold in the state of Vermont. If passed, Vermont would be the first state to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. Surely Monsanto, the bio-tech company responsible for creating and patenting the seeds that beget the genetically modified foods that line our supermarket shelves, would be fine with foods containing their laboratory creations being labeled as such. After all, if Monsanto is sure their food is safe, then what is the big deal if people can readily identify it, right? Well . . . it turns out that Monsanto does not want the free advertising. In fact, Monsanto is so against having its Frankenfood creations readily identifiable that it has threatened to sue the state of Vermont if the Genetically Modified Food Act passes! (If you are unsure as to the reason for all the fuss regarding genetically modified foods or want to learn more about the evil empire that calls itself “Monsanto,” please read my article “The World According to Monsanto” and Why I Say “No!” to Dangerous GMOs and view the documentary it discusses.)
Unfortunately, Monsanto’s threat was taken quite seriously by Vermont lawmakers. Despite public support and the support of a majority of Vermont Agriculture Committee members, voting on the bill has been held up. Some say the delay is an effort to run down the clock to the end of the legislative session. At hearings on March 15th and 16th of this year, the Vermont Agriculture Committee heard expert testimony that genetically modified (GM) foods have been found by scientists from around the world to lead to pre-cancerous states in laboratory animals. It is studies such as these that have led 50 nations to pass laws requiring that GM foods be labeled! It was around this time that Monsanto threatened to sue Vermont if the bill passed. Despite thousands of e-mails and calls from constituents in support of the bill being passed, lawmakers held off on the vote and a public hearing was set for April 12, 2012.
Can Monsanto Sue Vermont?
Yes, Monsanto can sue Vermont. Actually, it has done it in the past when Vermont passed a labeling law. In 1994, Vermont became the first state to require labels on milk and dairy products obtained from cows treated with Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone commonly known as ”rBGH.” Monsanto’s lawyers argued that requiring rBGH-using farmers to label their products violated the farmers’ right to remain silent under the free speech protections of the First Amendment. There are documented health risks to cows and humans as a result of the use of rBGH, and rBGH has been banned in most industrialized nations, European nations and Canada among them. Nonetheless, Monsanto won the case in Federal Court.
Although I can see how a judge could rule in favor of farmers’ rights to remain silent–it is their job to uphold the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and its Amendments–one must stop and consider that under this strict interpretation of the First Amendment the government mandate of corporations of a certain size listing “Nutrition Facts” on foods and supplements hardly seems legal. I guess we better hope that a giant corporation never decides to claim that they have the right to remain silent regarding the calorie content of their products. If this were to happen, and the legal budget was large enough, it seems that Americans who choose to buy from retail stores may just lose their right to have any say whatsoever in what they put in their bodies.
The April 12th Public Hearing at the Vermont State House
I am happy to say that, thanks to the efforts of the grass-roots organizations supporting the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act (H.722), hundreds of citizens converged on the Vermont Capitol last night. They staged a peaceful protest in front of the State House before the hearing and they filled the State House, balcony and all, during the hearing.
Seeing photos of the protest, and reading records of citizens’ moving testimonies before the Vermont Agriculture Committee, has made me proud to be a native Vermonter! One thing is for sure: if Vermont lawmakers do not vote on and pass the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act (H.722), they are not obliging the will of Vermont citizens. According to an e-mail I received from www.vtrighttoknow.org, the web clearinghouse for the bill, Agriculture Committee member, Will Stevens, stated in regards to the hearing: “One hundred percent wanted us to pass the bill.” Let us hope that lawmakers do right by the people–no matter what threats Monsanto makes.
You Do Not Need to Be a Vermonter to Support Vermonters in This Fight!
Please visit http://www.vtrighttoknow.org/ and sign the petition in support of The Vermont Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act (H.722). You do not have to live in Vermont to sign the petition. If we are to realize national labeling of genetically modified food products, then there must be a state that “goes first!” Let Vermont lawmakers know that you want them to take a stand for health and blaze the trail for other states in our nation. Write to your state lawmakers and tell them that you want a bill put forth in your state modeled after The Vermont Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act (H.722). Like www.vtrighttoknow.com, the web clearinghouse for information on the bill, on Facebook. View the photos of Vermonters converging on the State House while you are there.
To sign Just Label It’s national-level petition to the FDA asking for labeling of GM foods click here. Despite Just Label It’s petition to the FDA already having 1.1 million signatures, the FDA has not taken action. As a result Just Label it has started a new White House petition for the labeling of GM foods in the hopes that the President himself will pay more attention to the issue of labeling genetically modified foods than has the FDA. If this new White House petition gets 25,000 signatures in the next 30 days, the petition will be reviewed by White House policy experts who will issue an official response. You can sign Just Label It’s White House petition, via first signing up for a White House petition account, by clicking here.
Vote With Your Wallet!
If you wish to avoid genetically modified foods effective immediately, then either buy organic or from a local farmer who has pledged to you that he does not and will not use genetically modified seeds. Consumers must speak with their wallets, especially given the chance that our Federal Court system may side with Monsanto regarding labeling of genetically modified food.
Photo Credits: All photos in this post were taken by Bob Farnham. You can view more of Bob Farnham’s photos of the protest and hearing at www.vtrighttoknow.com’s Facebook page.