In its latest act as the world’s biggest corporate bully, Monsanto recently threatened to sue Vermont if the state dares to pass a mandatory GMO labeling law.
Backed by tremendous support from the state’s consumers and food producers, the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act (H. 722), would make Vermont the first of the United States to require labeling of genetically engineered food: a prospect biotech giant Monsanto finds terrifying. According to a 2010 poll by Reuters and National Public Radio, 93 percent of the American public wants genetically modified food to be labeled.
Although the bill is backed by representative Kate Webb, and was progressing nicely toward passage near the end of March, progress has been halted thanks to Monsanto’s threat of legal action. Alternet reports:
Despite thousands of emails and calls from constituents who overwhelmingly support mandatory labeling, .despite the fact that a majority (6 to 5) of Agriculture Committee members support passage of the measure, Vermont legislators are holding up the labeling bill and refusing to take a vote
Instead, they’re calling for more public hearings on April 12, in the apparent hope that they can run out the clock until the legislative session ends in early May.
Several legislators have rather unconvincingly argued that the Vermont public has a “low appetite” for any bills, even very popular bills like this one, that might end up in court. Others expressed concern about Vermont being the first state to pass a mandatory GMO labeling bill and then having to “go it alone” against Monsanto in court.
This cautious statement doesn’t jive with the state’s long history of standing up for accurate food labeling: just last year the state’s Agency of Agriculture threatened to sue McDonald’s over due to its Fruit & Maple Oatmeal not actually containing any real natural maple syrup. And in the 1990s, Vermont led the charge against Monsanto by labeling bovine growth hormone in milk. Monsanto eventually won that lawsuit on the grounds that it had first amendment rights to “remain silent on whether or not they are injecting their cows with rBGH.”
Although it would be the first to pass a GMO labeling bill, Vermont isn’t the only state to propose such a measure. As of February, almost 20 states were considering such legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. If Vermont is brave enough to stand up to the corporate pressure, they may find other states quickly falling in step beside them, instead of hanging them out to dry.
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