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Wednesday, 15 May 2013 06:02

Vermont May Be First State to Require Labeling of Genetically Modified Food

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

gmoIt's not a done deal, but Vermont took the first step toward legally requiring the labeling of foods that have been genetically modified. 

Although the Vermont House moved the legislation one step toward becoming law last week, the GMO industry is fighting it tooth and nail, threatening lawsuits right and left. As a recent Truthout article noted, "Monsanto Threatens to Sue Vermont Over GMO Labeling Bill."

The threat of legal action by multi-billion dollar corporations who are acquiring a monopoly on patented genetically modified food lets states like Vermont know that they will spend unlimited amounts of money on litigation, thus striking fear in state legislators who are worried about economically fragile budgets. As a May 13th Grist article quotes an NPR report:

No representatives on Thursday argued against the concept of more transparent food labeling. The most frequent point of opposition voiced on the floor concerned a likely lawsuit from the biotech or food industries that the Attorney General’s Office estimates could cost the state more than $5 million.

Grist comments on this argument in relation to a failed proposition in California:

A ballot initiative that would have required GMO labels in California was defeated last year after Monsanto and other corporations spent nearly $50 million on ads opposing it. A national GMO-labeling bill was introduced recently in Congress, but it has little to no chance of becoming law./Vermont House members caved a little in not requiring that milk or meat, for example, that come from animals who have been fed GMO's be labeled as a concession to the behemoth genetically modified food industry.  But it would require all food that contains GMO ingredients or is from a genetically engineered animal (salmon, for instance) be labeled as such.

So what would the Vermont bill accomplish?

Grist puts it succintly:

Most of the corn, soy, and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, and they’re widely used in processed foods. But shoppers who want to avoid them have no good way of doing so. Requiring food manufacturers to label genetically modified foods would allow people to say “no” to such products.

Transparency in knowing what we are eating: isn't it a basic right to be given full information on what we put into our bodies?  Monsanto and the other GMO giants are rightfully fearful that people will avoid genetically engineered food in large numbers and hurt their profits.  But health and personal choice come before hiding the truth, stock prices, share holder dividends and executive compensation.

The lopsided (107-37) passage of the genetically modified foods labeling bill in the Vermont House joins other state victories on progressive issues that BuzzFlash at Truthout has recently highlighted.  These include Minnesota becoming the 12th State to legalize same sex marriage and the Vermont Senate voting to back abolishing any claim to legal corporate personhood.  

What this means is that state-by-state activists are making headway on progressive issues becoming law, advancing crucial public policy as Washington remains grid locked.  State elected holders are generally more responsive to local constituents because of the smaller size of their districts.  Money still has a very large impact on state legislatures – to be sure – but less so on social issues than in the nation's capital.

Is this cause for a moment of celebration?  Yes, it proves that the logjam of backwards-looking policies can be broken.

Moreover, it's a call to activists to dig in for a long slog.  With hard disciplined efforts, victories can be won.

(Photo: Chiot's Run)