It looks as if the near future—in fact, as soon as July 2016 if all goes well—Vermonters are going to know a lot more about what’s in their food than all the rest of us.
That’s because on April 16, 2014, the Vermont State Senate passed, by an overwhelming majority of 28-2, H.112, the first no-strings-attached GMO labeling bill in the nation. The bill, which now goes to the Vermont House and then onward to Governor Peter Shumlin’s desk, requires mandatory labeling of all food sold in Vermont containing GMOs. The bill goes even further, making it illegal to label any food product containing GMOs “natural” or “all natural.”
Is Vermont’s groundbreaking bill a big deal? You bet it is. The bill goes beyond the bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut that contain so-called trigger clauses that require comparable labeling laws to be passed in four or five other contiguous states—think Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island—before the two states’ laws can be enacted.
Passing labeling laws in some of those Northeastern states—or any other state, for that matter—has proven to be a high hurdle, making Vermont’s lead even more remarkable. In fact, H.112 may just be the bellwether that anti-GMO activists have been hoping for. After all, in poll after poll of American consumers, results show that a whopping 91% of us favor labeling of GMO products.
Take a look at the map below and you’ll see that there’s a flurry of state-level, GMO-labeling legislative activity currently sweeping the U.S. To the dismay of St. Louis giant Monsanto and the other international chemical and biotech companies in the GMO club, this year there are more than sixty active bills in twenty-three states stretching from the East Coast to the West.
Here’s how Ronnie Cummins, the national director of the Organic Consumers Association, explains the context of Vermont’s game-changing legislation.
Today’s victory in Vermont has been twenty 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.
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).
Today, consumers and a number of principled legislators in Vermont made it clear to Monsanto, Coca-Cola and other opponents of consumers’ right to know: We will not back down. This movement is here to stay.
And, if some of you are thinking, “Why should I care? This GMO thing doesn’t affect me,” here’s a list of some of the biggest food companies in the world whose (unlabeled) GMO-containing products make up a hefty 90% of the food on the shelves at your very own local grocery retailer.