Author Archives: Mollie

VT Digger: Consumers don’t see GMO labeling as a deterrent to buying foods, study shows

Sam Heller
Jul. 29 2015
Full Article

A new study on GMO labeling shows that most people would not view a GMO label as a warning to avoid eating products containing genetically modified ingredients, according to a news release issued by the University of Vermont on July 27.

Jane Kolodinsky, a professor who authored the study and chair of the Department of Community Development and Applied Economics at the University of Vermont, drew from five years of data from statewide surveys about consumer opinions on GMO labeling. The surveys focused on the relationship between whether the respondent opposed the commercial use of GMOs, and whether or not they believed products containing GMOs should be labeled.

The study found that 93 percent of respondents were in favor of GMO labeling laws, and 60 percent of respondents were opposed to the use of genetically modified ingredients in commercial products. There was no evidence to suggest that those who were in favor of a GMO labeling law were no more likely to oppose the commercial use of GMOs than those who did not, however.

“When you look at consumer opposition to the use of GM technologies in food and account for the label, we found that overall the label has no direct impact on opposition. And it increased support for GM in some demographic groups,” Kolodinsky said.

The study comes at a time when GMO labeling is a hot-button issue in Vermont. At a concert in Essex Junction, Canadian rock star Neil Young announced that he would make a $100,000 donation to the Vermont Food Fight Fund, established to defend Act 120 – Vermont’s GMO labeling law – from opponents who wish to see it overturned in court.

Meanwhile, Vermont senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has spearheaded legislation in the Senate which would allow Vermont to require manufacturers to list genetically modified ingredients on food labels.

Vermont’s GMO labeling law, Act 120 has been challenged in court by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other food industry trade groups, who say the bill is unconstitutional and a violation of free speech.

“The First Amendment dictates that when speech is involved, Vermont policymakers cannot merely act as a pass-through for the fads and controversies of the day. It must point to a truly ‘governmental’ interest, not just a political one,” the Grocery Manufacturers Association says on its website.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is considering the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling bill which, if passed, will nullify Vermont’s Act 120.

“Proponents of the U.S. Senate-bound bill, which if enacted would nullify Vermont’s GMO labeling law that has yet to take effect, argue that mandating labels on foods containing GMOs is misleading, because it suggests to consumers that GMOs are somehow risky to eat,” reads the UVM news release.

But Kolodinsky’s findings indicate that most people who support GMO labeling laws do so out of a desire to make an informed decision about what they’re eating, rather than out of concern that GMOs are dangerous.

“This study adds to the GM labeling evidence by showing that, in the only U.S. state that has passed a mandatory positive GM labeling law, the label will not act as a ‘warning label.’ When only the label is considered, it has no impact on consumer opposition. And there is some evidence that the label will increase consumer confidence in GM technology among certain groups,” she said.


Burlington Free Press Op-ed: My Turn: Fear for your food future

By MICHAEL BURAK
August 6, 2015
Full Op-Ed

If you listen closely, you can still hear the echoes of the nuclear power industry when their over-paid scientists, lawyers, publicists and lobbyists sanctimoniously and superciliously asserted that nuclear power would be clean, safe, reliable and too cheap to meter. If only, people would stop being so afraid of the unintended consequences of nuclear power and listen to the “facts” they were smugly spewing, they could get on with their agenda. Unfortunately, for them the nuclear trifecta —– the melt down at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania and the continuing disasters in Fukushima, Japan and Chernobyl, Russia — seems to have driven those old arguments underground. But you can still hear the echoes.

The remarkable similarities of the justifications now advanced by big “Agribiz” (Monsanto et al.) in support of GMOs to the arguments once offered in support of nuclear power leave one with the chilling thought that maybe —just maybe — the new crop of overpaid scientists, lawyers, publicists, and lobbyists being rewarded by “Agribiz,” are reading from the old playbill. Feed the world with clean, safe, reliable and cheap GMOs. Once again, they claim, that advanced technology will rescue us from ourselves.

Well, maybe that’s possible but I, once again, fear the potential, unintended consequences of these new experimental food products. I fear a future that puts my food supply in the hands of a few multinational corporations driven primarily by “the bottom line” of a few wealthy investors. (The Pope might call that greed.) I also fear the impact on our farmers, and I fear the impact on the existing crop supply. And I want to choose whether I consume GMOs in the food I eat.

And that’s what the Vermont legislature intended when it passed the GMO labeling bill. In spite of the threats from big Agribiz, Vermont was and is prepared to go it alone. All we Vermonters want is an opportunity to know what’s in the food we eat and make informed choices on issues of global significance. Isn’t full disclosure and transparency essential to the twin concepts of consumer capitalism and caveat emptor? How else can we opt out of the world dominated by Monsanto et al. Our only leverage is to vote with our pocketbooks.

And, so Agribiz has dispatched a coven of ankle-biting lawyers to smother our new law in legal briefs. But it’s not enough for Monsanto to challenge our law in the courts. They are now challenging our law in the well-plowed fields of Washington, D.C. Money goes further in Congress and so they are succeeding. The U.S. House voted by a frighteningly high margin to block us from requiring labeling of genetically modified foods. (Where are the “states rights” boys when you really need them?)

We can hope that the unintended consequences of GMOs will not be as dramatic as those of the nuclear power industry. But that’s what makes it so insidious. The consequences of GMOs may occur long before we know about them. Let’s hope the grid lock in Washington can kill Agribiz’ latest maneuver.


Westword: Feds Should Amend Marijuana and Hemp Laws, Legislatures Group Says

By Michael Roberts
August 10, 2015
Full Article

The National Conference of State Legislatures is an organization that champions the rights of politicians at the state level.

And at the just-concluded NCSL Summit in Seattle, the group took a stand against federal interference when it comes to marijuana and hemp.

In a resolution on view below, the NCSL asks that federal laws “be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies.”

Here’s how the organization describes itself on its website:

Since 1975, NCSL has been the champion of state legislatures. We’ve helped states remain strong and independent by giving them the tools, information and resources to craft the best solutions to difficult problems. We’ve fought against unwarranted actions in Congress and saved states more than $1 billion. We’ve conducted workshops to sharpen the skills of lawmakers and legislative staff in every state. And we do it every day.

In recent years, marijuana and hemp have been very much on the NCSL’s radar, for reasons described on an overview page devoted to the subjects. The following passage about 2015 cannabis proposals references legislation put forward in a slew of states:

Adult-use legalization bills currently are pending in Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont. In addition, bills in Georgia and Missouri propose constitutional amendments on marijuana legalization; and a Louisiana bill also would provide for a proposition election to allow for legal adult use of marijuana. Legalization bills have failed in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Mexico and West Virginia; and an initiative petition in Nevada and constitutional amendment proposal in New Mexico also have failed. The pending Texas proposal would repeal criminal provisions but does not include taxation and regulation.A bill in Maine addressing consistent drug-free workplace policies would require study of legal marijuana and the workplace. Study bills failed in Illinois, New Hampshire and Wyoming. A Maine measure failed that would have prohibited localities from referendums to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

In addition, nineteen states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, the NCSL points out; they are ” Alaska (also now with legal provisions) California, Colorado (also now with legal provisions), Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington (also now with legal provisions), and the District of Columbia (also now with legal provisions).”

The new resolution also highlights the fact that “nearly half of the states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana,” despite the substance remaining illegal at the federal level. With that in mind, the authors of the document believe changes need to be made at the federal level. The final portion of the resolution reads:

BE IT RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures believes that federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference and urges the administration not to undermine state marijuana and hemp policies.BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures recognizes that its members have differing views on how to treat marijuana and hemp in their states and believes that states and localities should be able to set whatever marijuana and hemp policies work best to improve the public safety,, health, and economic development of their communities.

Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority sees this move as a positive step. Corresponding with Westword via e-mail, he writes that “while the Obama administration has made some helpful accommodations for states to move forward with their own marijuana policies, overarching federal prohibition laws still stand in the way of full and effective implementation. These state lawmakers are demanding that the federal government stop impeding their ability to set and carry out marijuana laws that work best for their own communities, and Congress should listen.

 


GM Watch: New revelation about glyphosate-cancer link

Glyphosate narrowly missed being classed as a known rather than a probable carcinogen in the World Health Organisation evaluation.
8/13/15
Claire Robinson reports
Full Article

An excellent article by Andrew Cockburn in Harpers explains that anti-invasive species hysteria is prevalent across the US, from university biology departments to wildlife bureaucracies to garden clubs. Glyphosate is the weapon of choice for battling invaders that are seen as threatening native species. Over 90 percent of California’s land managers use the compound, which is particularly recommended as a slayer of eucalyptus trees. Last year, the federal government spent more than $2 billion to fight the alien invasion, up to half of which was budgeted for glyphosate and other poisons.

This resulting high exposure to glyphosate of the American public is an especially serious issue since the decision of the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency IARC that the herbicide is a “probable” carcinogen. Monsanto has tried to bamboozle the public about the significance of the IARC decision by confusing the 2A (probable human carcinogen) category that IARC put glyphosate into with the 2B category – “possible human carcinogen”, a group occupied by common substances like coffee and pickled vegetables. The message is: many of us drink coffee and eat pickled vegetables without worrying, so we shouldn’t worry about glyphosate either.

Cockburn’s article reveals that the discussion at IARC was NOT about whether glyphosate should be in category 2A (probable carcinogen) or category 2B (possible carcinogen). Instead the discussion was about whether glyphosate should be classed in category 1 (known human carcinogen).

The IARC group was headed by Aaron Blair, an epidemiologist who spent thirty years at the National Cancer Institute. Cockburn paraphrases Blair as follows:

“According to Blair, there were good grounds to declare that glyphosate definitely causes cancer” – in other words, it should be classed in category 1 as a known human carcinogen. But “This did not happen, [Blair] said, because ‘the epidemiologic data was a little noisy’. In other words, while several studies suggested a link, another study, of farmers in Iowa and North Carolina, did not. Blair pointed out that there had been a similar inconsistency in human studies of benzene, now universally acknowledged as a carcinogen. In any case, this solitary glitch in the data caused the group to list glyphosate as a probable (instead of a definite) cause of cancer.”

Iowa and North Carolina study not reassuring

Blair of the IARC mentions the Agricultural Health Study in Iowa and North Carolina as a study which, in Cockburn’s paraphrasis, did not find a link between glyphosate and cancer. In reality, though, the study is not reassuring and doesn’t contradict other studies that did find a link, for two reasons.

1. The study did find “a suggested association” between glyphosate exposure and multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. A rebuttal study commissioned by Monsanto and published in 2015 ahead of the re-evaluations of glyphosate by the US and the EU used a different dataset and concluded “no convincing evidence” of a link. Whether the Monsanto re-analysis is more reliable than the findings of the publicly funded Agricultural Health Study is debatable.

2. In a separate study also conducted in Iowa, detectable levels of glyphosate were found in urine samples from farm families and non-farm families. The researchers put this down to the fact that glyphosate herbicides are used in home gardens as well as in agriculture. Thus in the Agricultural Health Study the control population is as likely to be exposed to glyphosate as the “exposed” population, so the differences between the groups may be small or non-existent. The implication of the urine study is that the real link between glyphosate and cancer could be far stronger than was found in the Agricultural Health Study.

Glyphosate-resistant weeds: the ultimate invasive species

The massive irony emphasised by Cockburn’s article is that America’s reliance on the probable carcinogen glyphosate has backfired. Glyphosate over-use on both invasive species and GM glyphosate-tolerant crops has led to the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds. The agricultural consultant Dr Charles Benbrook is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s a disaster… As resistant weeds spread and become more of an economic issue for more farmers, the only way they know how to react — the only way that they feel they can react — is by spraying more.”

It has become common for farmers to spray three times a season instead of once, and Benbrook estimates that the extra doses of herbicide will add up to 75,000 tons in 2015. Farmers now have to contend with glyphosate-tolerant marestail that grows up to eight feet tall, with stems thick enough, according to one farmer, to “stop a combine in its tracks”. It is, according to Cockburn, the ultimate “alien invasive, made right here in America”.


07/31 Dog Days, Open Barns, & Job Opening

Read the full update here.


Seven Days: Timber Harvesting With Horsepower

7/30/15
By Ken Picard
Full Article

Carl Russell wraps one end of a steel chain around a felled tree, then backs his 3,200-pound “power unit” — aka Ted and Petey, his team of harnessed draft horses — into position in front of the log. With nothing more than subtle nudges on the reins and terse voice commands of “Gee!” (right) or “Haw!” (left), he maneuvers the animals backward inch by inch, as deftly as if he were parking a golf cart.

“The really intriguing part of working with horses is getting to the point where you can communicate with them to this degree of responsiveness,” Russell explains, hitching the other end of the chain to the horse cart. “Because, really, what good is a power unit if you can’t control it?”

As Russell skids the log across a pasture and up a narrow dirt road, it’s readily apparent how horse logging differs from mechanized timber harvesting: no roar of diesel engines, belches of black smoke, deep muddy ruts or compacted vegetation created by skidders and bulldozers. Apart from the occasional whine of a chain saw, the clop of hooves and the jangle of chains, it’s as quiet as a walk in the woods.

In a very material sense, horse logging — or any work done with draft animals — is the original solar power. Locally grown hay, grasses and grain fuel Russell’s “engines.” So perhaps it’s no surprise that interest in the use of draft animals for logging and other agricultural activities has burgeoned along with Vermont’s explosion of solar-energy projects.

Russell and his wife, Lisa McCrory, own Earthwise Farm & Forest, a 158-acre organic farm on a wooded hillside in Bethel. The farm, including the 18th-century log cabin where they live with their three kids, has been in Russell’s family since his grandfather bought it in 1938. There, the family makes a living selling raw milk, eggs, vegetables, meat birds, pork and beef at its roadside farmstand. Three draft horses power nearly all the heavy lifting, tilling and logging on the land.

Russell, a University of Vermont-trained forester, has been horse logging for 29 years, both on his own property and on private woodlots, and then selling logs to local sawmills. He got his start in 1986, when he was just 26 and working as a log buyer for a large regional sawmill.

As Russell prepared to leave that job and go out on his own as a conventional forester, he traveled to Stockbridge to say goodbye to a client. Russell had been buying timber from the man for years and knew he consistently delivered exceptional saw logs, but he had never had occasion to visit his logging operation.

He remembers walking into the woods that day and being mesmerized when he saw how easily the old-timer logged using a single horse.

“It was like watching a dance,” Russell recalls. “Just fantastic surgical maneuvers, with this enormous horse moving pretty big timber.”

Russell knew immediately that, rather than invest in heavy machinery as he’d originally intended, he wanted to buy a draft horse. Six weeks later, the Stockbridge lumberjack sold Russell his first horse.

“He parked his horse trailer at the bottom of the hill, and I unloaded the horse and started walking up the hill,” Russell recalls. “I could hear his horse trailer banging down the road and just thought, What the hell am I doing?

Horse labor has a long history as the bedrock of farming and logging in Vermont, but by the time Russell got into it in the mid-’80s, that history was well in the past. The old farmers in the area eyed him skeptically, he recalls.

“They thought I was an idiot!” Russell admits with a laugh. “In some ways, it was almost insulting to them that I would be so serious and committed to this absurd, archaic way of working.”

Russell had to seek out the few elderly lumberjacks who still knew how to move timber by horse; more often, he found himself learning by trial and error. Though his first horse, Rob, had been described to him as “an old dud,” Russell soon realized that “he was just an amazing horse. He was my rock.”

Russell also discovered he had a knack for communicating with horses. Within a year, he bought his second, Peg, a 6- to 9-year-old mare. Russell worked her for 21 years before she had to be euthanized. Within a year of buying Peg, he stopped using his tractor. He eventually sold it and hasn’t used one for logging since.

Though some people have romantic notions about horse logging, Russell emphasizes that it’s arduous and dangerous work: “As nice as it is to work with horses when they work well, it’s hell when they don’t.” When the flies are too distracting or the temperature mounts too high, Russell has to move on to other work.

Because horse logging is time- and labor-intensive by nature, it costs landowners more than conventional logging would. Horse loggers typically practice a method called restorative forestry: They don’t clear-cut the entire woodlot, and they often leave standing the trees that would command the highest prices at the mill.

This method doesn’t reap landowners the highest possible cash return from their woodlots — at least, not initially. But, as Russell explains, once landowners recognize residual damage to the woods as a cost to them, they begin to see non-damaging practices as an investment in the land. Research has shown that, over time, forests logged with horses grow at a more vigorous pace and are more productive than conventionally logged stands.

That’s because horse logging allows Russell to get into spots where skidders and bulldozers can’t go and surgically remove the trees he wants, without compacting the soil or cutting wide swaths for roads and landings.

“If you want to get in here through the puckerbrush without mowing it all over,” he says, pointing to a thicket of sumac and buckthorn, “you can put one horse in here.”

The human scale of horse logging has another set of economic advantages for the logger. Logging with heavy machinery requires an upfront investment of tens of thousands of dollars, which often sends loggers deep into debt.

“For $10,000 I can have everything I want, including horses,” Russell says. In mechanized logging, “$10,000 isn’t going to buy much of a bulldozer or skidder.”

Russell emphasizes that he’s not bad-mouthing conventional methods, but he says that many loggers get “stuck in that economic grind.” Carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, they can’t turn down jobs and must “feed that beast.”

For Russell, feeding his beasts costs about $5 per day. “I can work with my horses for weeks without having to generate any income,” he adds. And, unlike skidders and loaders, Russell points out, horses actually appreciate in value over time.

“The more you utilize them to the best of their ability, the better they get and the more you can get done,” he explains. Asked for an example, Russell points to his animals, who’ve been standing for 15 minutes without moving more than a few inches in any direction. “That right there,” he says, “is a really good attribute.”

Russell and McCrory are well known throughout the region by those who work with draft animals. In 2007, they founded the Northeast Animal-Power Field Days, a three-day event held annually at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds that includes workshops, demonstrations and trade exhibitions.

That event, which Russell and McCrory oversaw until 2010, generated so much interest that it soon gave rise to the Draft Animal Power Network, an organization with about 600 members and a worldwide following. The network now holds its field days every other year and rotates them throughout the Northeast; the next one is scheduled for September 24 to 27 in Cummington, Mass.

Russell eventually passed the reins of the field days to other organizers so he could do more of what he enjoys most: be in the woods with his horses. He still reserves the time to teach and mentor younger horse loggers, in part because, when he was in forestry school, “Horses were part of the history lesson,” he says. “They weren’t part of the conventional lesson.”

Now he can instruct others at Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, one of a handful of schools around the country with programs in low-impact forestry and draft-horse management. According to Rick Thomas, the draft-horse educator, farrier and lumberjack who runs the program, interest has grown dramatically in the last decade; nearly all the program’s classes are filled and have robust waiting lists.

There’s no way to say how many horse loggers still operate in Vermont or on the national scale. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food & Markets, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation don’t track such figures.

Russell admits that horse logging isn’t for everyone, especially those who lack the patience to work with often-unpredictable animals. But for those who have it, he says, the rewards are great. To illustrate, he quotes a Wendell Berry poem that reads in part, “I learned to flesh my will in power great enough to kill me should I let it turn.”

“Horses can be an extension of your body, if you can communicate with them,” Russell says. “They’re just a great big muscle to me.”


The Undercurrent: why are we being fed by a poison expert?

6/3/15
Full Video

The Undercurrent delves into the world of mass agriculture to ask how one company has such control over food supply. The name Monsanto was once synonymous with Agent Orange, but today it’s the dominance of the widespread herbicide Roundup which helps keep the company on top. But is the World Health Organisation’s claim that Roundup ‘probably’ causes cancer, cause for concern? And what about the company’s stance on patenting which sees farmers in developing countries unable to hold on to seed? Guardian Australia has joined forces with The Undercurrent – an online news show billing itself as an antidote to the five-second soundbite – for a four-part series over June and July.


WCAX: Vermont lawmakers support GMO labeling law

By Logan Crawford
7/23/15
Full article & Video
BURLINGTON, Vt. – The U.S. House of Representatives voted to block states from requiring labels on genetically modified food. Vermont was the first state in the nation to legalize labeling genetically engineered food and it has been a controversial issue ever since.

Vermont is a leader in requiring food makers to label what’s in their product. A law passed in 2014 mandating food containing genetically modified organisms in the state say so on the container.

“And now what the House is doing is going to keep that information away from consumers if it becomes law of this country,” said Vt. Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

In Washington Thursday, the House passed a bill called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, banning states from requiring GMO labels. Sorrell says the House is listening to big food manufacturers rather than consumers. Rep Peter Welch.

“This is not a question about whether science says GMO foods cause medical issues, that’s not the issue. The question is whether consumers when they purchase food have a right to know what’s in it,” said Welch, D-Vermont.

Those in favor of the GMO labeling law call this the DARK Act, or the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act. Connecticut and Maine passed laws like Vermont’s and more states are looking to also. National food groups filed a lawsuit earlier this year with the state of Vermont over the issue. They claim the law violates free speech and could wrongly imply foods are unsafe.

The Vermont Retail and Grocers Association are against letting states have their own labeling laws. The group of food merchants says Vermont’s law will be confusing to consumers and require manufacturers to print different labels for each state.

“We believe that Congress, the president or designated agencies within the administration should be the ones determining whether genetically engineering food should be labeled,” said Sigrist.

This anti-GMO label bill will now go to the Senate. It will become law only if the Senate and the president approve. Sorrell says he expects Senators Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, to fight for GMO labeling in the Senate.


Brattleboro Reformer: House passes bill to prevent mandatory GMO labeling

7/23/15
House passes bill that would prevent states from requiring labels to indicate presence of GMOs.
By MARY CLARE JALONICK
The Associated Press
Full Article

WASHINGTON >> Food companies would not have to disclose whether their products include genetically modified ingredients under legislation passed by the House Thursday.

The House bill is backed by the food industry, which has fought mandatory labeling efforts in several states around the country. The legislation, which passed 275-150, would prevent states from requiring package labels to indicate the presence of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

So far, Vermont is the only state set to require the labels. That law will take effect in July 2016 if it survives a legal challenge from the food industry. Maine and Connecticut have also passed laws requiring the labeling, but those measures don’t take effect unless neighboring states follow suit.

The country’s largest food companies say genetically modified foods are safe and that labels would be misleading. They say a patchwork of laws around the country would be expensive for companies and confusing for consumers.

“The reality is, biotechnology has time and time again proved safe,” the bill’s sponsor, Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, said on the House floor. “We should not raise prices on consumers based on the wishes of a handful of activists.”

Advocates for the labels say people have a right to know what is in their food and criticize the legislation for trying to take away states’ ability to require the labels.

“What’s the problem with letting consumers know what they are buying?” asked Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat.

Genetically modified seeds are engineered in laboratories to have certain traits, like resistance to herbicides. The majority of the country’s corn and soybean crop is now genetically modified, with much of that going to animal feed. It also is made into popular processed food ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soybean oil.

The food industry says about 75 percent to 80 percent of packaged foods contain genetically modified ingredients.

The Food and Drug Administration has said GMOs are safe, and the federal government does not support mandatory labels. Even so, the House bill would make it harder for the agency to require labeling nationally by laying out additional standards for such a policy.

At the same time, the legislation would step up FDA oversight by requiring that any new genetically engineered products be reviewed by the agency before they can be sold. That process is now voluntary for most modified foods.

The bill would also create a new certification process at the Agriculture Department for foods that are labeled free of GMOs. That would mean anyone wanting to use that label would eventually have to apply. Organic foods would be automatically certified, since they are already required to be free of engineered ingredients.

A December Associated Press-Gaff poll found that two-thirds of Americans support labeling of genetically modified ingredients on food packages.

Many of those who support the labels say they have no problem buying food containing GMOs, but they think there should be more accountability in the food industry. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said Wednesday in a speech opposing the bill that he buys genetically modified foods but thinks it should be a choice.

There is no similar bill in the Senate, although Sen. John Heaven, R-N.D., has said he is working on legislation.

It’s unclear whether President Barack Obama would sign the legislation. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been supportive of genetically modified crops and has praised voluntary labeling solutions like special bar codes on packages to allow consumers to access information via smartphone. But the White House has so far been silent on the House bill.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said after the vote that people who want to know what’s in their food will eventually win the fight.

Americans “are demanding the right to know what’s in their food,” Shumlin said.

 

 


State of Vermont: Gov. Shumlin Statement on House Passage of Bill to Block Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law

7/23/15
Full Release

MONTPELIER – July 23, 2015 – Gov. Peter Shumlin issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation today that would block Vermont from enforcing its mandatory GMO labeling law.

“Monsanto and their corporate food allies have millions of dollars to dedicate to this fight, and today’s vote shows that they are quite skilled in using those vast resources to buy votes in Congress. But here is what Monsanto will never be able to do: Win this fight. Millions of Americans are demanding the right to know what is in their food. And every time Monsanto fights tooth and nail to deny people that right, all they do is grow the ranks of ordinary Americans who are willing to stand up and fight. So this message is for Monsanto: Bring it on. You may have the money, but we have the people. And the people always win.

“I want to thank Congressman Peter Welch for fighting so hard against this bill. In Vermont we are lucky to have a congressional delegation that understands that giving people the right to know what is in their food is simply common sense.”