Vermont Right to Know GMOs

A Collaborative Project between
Northeast Organic Farmers Association VT
Rural Vermont, Cedar Circle FarmVermont Public Interest Research Group

More information at http://www.vtrighttoknowgmos.org

hammer_lawMay 6, 2016 ACTION ALERT!

Big Food and Senator Debbie Stabenow are pushing a proposal to replace Vermont’s clear on-package labeling law with ineffective “QR Codes”. QR Codes are similar to bar codes and would require consumers to have a smart phone, the correct application, internet service and the time to scan each product and visit companies’ websites to find out if their food is genetically engineered. All of this to avoid putting clear labeling on food packages.

Tell Senator Stabenow QR codes won’t cut it

We are just months away from Vermont’s first in the nation GMO labeling law going in to effect, and we need your help to fight off this one last push from the big food lobby. Please take a minute and join our friends at the Center for Food Safety in calling on Senator Stabenow to say NO to a QR code compromise.

 

Vermont Update: On April 14th, we learned that there was a back door effort underway in the Vermont State House to amend Act 120, Vermont’s first in the nation GMO food labeling law. Lobbyists for major companies (Keurig & Smucker’s), who are members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), are attempting to attach amendments to the “must pass” budget bill that would make substantive changes to our labeling law.

Because there is on-going litigation regarding the labeling law, any reconsideration of the law by the Vermont legislature represents a serious threat to the State’s position in the lawsuit which was brought by the GMA. Rural Vermont is working with our partners in the VT Right to Know GMOs Coalition to generate grassroots pressure on the members of the Senate to resist any effort to tamper with the labeling law.

As of April 26th, thanks in part to calls from grassroots activists and lobbying by the VT Right to Know GMOs Coalition, we have beaten back the most damaging amendments that were proposed. The only amendment remaining under consideration is one to delay the right of citizens to pursue legal action to enforce Act 120 until July 1, 2017. This amendment was included in the budget passed by the Senate on April 25th. Though Rural Vermont and the Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition opposed any amendments, the law will still go into effect on July 1, 2016, and the Attorney General will still be able to enforce the law as provided in Act 120, despite this delay in the citizens’ private right of action. We continue to fight to ensure that the delay in the private right of action is not extended further, and no other amendments are made to the law.

March 16, 2016: UPDATE

Today there was a big victory for Vermonters and consumers across the country who support the right to know what is in our food. The U.S. Senate voted to block a bill which would have completely wiped out state labeling laws including Vermont’s. The bill, introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was rushed to the floor with virtually no debate in a desperate scheme to preempt Vermont’s law before it takes effect on July 1st. Thankfully, Vermont’s Senators Leahy and Sanders led the charge to stop Roberts’ bill, which received only 49 of the 60 votes needed for passage.

Please take a minute to give them a call of thanks:

Leahy: 202-224-4242 and Sanders: 202-224-5141

We also want to thank all of you who took the time to make calls to key senators before this vote. It is clear that pressure from the grassroots is playing a crucial role in holding the line against the corporate lobbyists.

Today’s victory is worth celebrating. It is the third time in the past six months that we have successfully defeated efforts by the Senate to undermine states’ rights and the rights of consumers. However, it is not the end of the fight for Vermont’s labeling law. The Senate will be in recess for two weeks beginning this Friday, but we expect Monsanto, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and their corporate collaborators to continue to wield their influence in the halls of Congress and undermine your right to know what is in the food you eat and purchase for your family. We need to remain vigilant, and we will keep you informed as the situation unfolds and your help is needed again. For more information contact Andrea or visit the VT Right to Know GMOs Coalition website.

March 4, 2016: 

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture voted in favor of the new “DARK Act” this week. The bill, introduced by Chairman Pat Roberts, is designed to stop the movement for GMO labeling in its tracks-  undermining the public’s right to know and states’ rights to inform their citizens about the potential health and environmental implications of the products they buy. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives this summer.

With Vermont’s labeling law set to be implemented this July, biotech and big food industries are scrambling for a last minute measure to block it. This bill goes even further than preempting Vermont’s law and would have a significant impact in jurisdictions beyond Vermont. According to an analysis by the Center for Food Safety, the Roberts bill would preempt at least 137 existing statutes, regulations and ordinances at the state and municipal level.[i] Some of the laws that would be blocked include Alaska’s labeling requirement for genetically engineered fish and shell fish, as well as Vermont and Virginia’s longstanding GE seed labeling laws.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy stood among others to denounce the intentions and potential impact of the bill. Leahy pointed to the absence of hearings and discussion of the Senate bill as an affront to Vermont’s democratic process. Vermont’s GMO labeling law, he noted, was passed only after “The Vermont Legislature held 52 committee hearings, and heard 136 presentations of testimony on both sides of the food labeling issue…

While it is unclear whether this legislation has enough bipartisan support to pass the Senate, a new mandatory labeling bill has been introduced from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that would require the disclosure of GMO ingredients on Nutrition Facts labels. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Leahy.

February 4, 2016:  The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has set up the following informational page for producers with questions about how to comply with Vermont’s GMO labeling law (scheduled to go into effect in July 2016): http://ago.vermont.gov/hot-topics/ge-food-labeling-rule.php  Specific questions should be sent to the dedicated email address: ago.GEFoodLabelingRule@vermont.gov

December 16, 2015 – Federal spending bill rejects anti-GMO labeling push: The biotech and junk food industries have been fighting tooth and nail to preempt states’ ability to label genetically engineered products, and in particular to kill Vermont’s law before companies need to start the labeling process.

Their most recent strategy to try to block mandatory GMO labeling through an end-of-the-year, must-pass spending bill was further proof of the underhanded tactics used to sidestep the broad citizen support for labeling and the rights of states to implement labeling requirements.

Lawmakers also responded in the omnibus spending bill to the FDA’s approval last month of genetically engineered salmon. The Agency will be required, for the first time, to develop labels for the AquAdvantage salmon before they are allowed on the market – this is a really incredible victory for right to know advocates!

 

September 2, 2015: Monday, Aug. 31, Rural Vermont joined the three other members of the VT Right to Know GMO Coalition in filing an amicus curiae brief with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Vermont’s genetically engineered (GE) food labeling law. Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), Cedar Circle Farm, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) and Rural Vermont were instrumental in passing Act 120, Vermont’s labeling law, and are continuing to fight for it in court. Read the press here. Read the full Amicus Brief here.

Consumers Union, Ben & Jerry’s and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility also submitted an amicus brief in support of VT.

National Update: In July, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill (H.1599) that would squash Vermont’s law by prohibiting states from passing their own labeling laws. It is referred to as the D.A.R.K. Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know) because it would substitute a totally voluntary national labeling process that would include allowing the term “natural” to be used on GMO foods. The bill now moves to the Senate where there is hope it will never see the light of day. If you want to help Vermont implement and defend its first in the nation GMO Food Labeling law please consider making a donation to the Vermont Food Fight Fund and also to Rural Vermont so we can continue our advocacy on this issue that affects everyone.

You can also read more about this issue in this article about Neil Young’s recent visit to VT and his support for GMO Labeling.

Vermont’s First-in-the-Nation-Labeling Law

On Monday, April 27th Judge Christina Reiss declared that the heart of Vermont’s GMO labeling law is constitutional, and that the state can move forward with implementing the law while the case is debated. This is only the first round of what could be a long legal battle, but it is a strong start.

Get more info and the full text of the decision here.

The opinion did question if the prohibition on calling GMOs natural would survive at trial, but found that requiring labels on GMO foods does not violate the constitution. Next steps in the case may include proceeding to trial to resolve outstanding claims, or an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Read the coalition’s statement on Judge Reiss’ decision

On Wednesday, January 7th the Federal District Court in Burlington heard the first oral arguments on Vermont’s landmark GMO labeling law. The arguments will center on the State’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit, and the Plaintiffs’ request to stop implementation of the law.

Find all the latest legal documents in the case to label GMOs.

After the oral arguments, the Judge will deliberate and issue a decision, probably within the next few months.  More updates at http://www.vtrighttoknowgmos.org/

Recent Updates

On Friday, August 8, 2014 Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell defended Vermont’s new labeling law with a 51-page federal court filing. He asked the court to throw out a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, International Dairy Foods Association and the Snack Foods Association. Read the Burlington Free Press article here.

On July 21, 2014 VPIRG and the Center for Food Safety (CFS), jointly represented by counsel from Vermont Law and CFS, formally moved to defend Vermont’s genetically engineered food labeling law, Act 120. The groups filed legal papers to intervene on behalf of the State of Vermont in order to assist in defending Act 120 from a legal challenge brought by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and other food industry trade associations. GMA, which represents the country’s largest food manufacturers, sued Vermont just over a month after the law was signed.

Read the press release here. Read a recent article from the Times Argus here.

Rural Vermont will consider filing an amicus or “friend of the court” brief at the appropriate time if VPIRG and CFS gain party status.

VermontGMO_H112signed_169-725x400On May 8th, Governor Shumlin signed Vermont’s GMO labeling bill into law, making Vermont the first state that will require labels on genetically engineered foods! The law will require labels on genetically engineered foods sold at retail outlets in Vermont, and will go in to effect on July 1st 2016. The law would also prohibit labeling products produced with genetic engineering as “natural”, “100% natural” or “all natural”.

FoodFightFund-logo-final2-333x333Now the work to implement and defend the law begins. If you want to be able to choose food that supports your values consider making a contribution here: http://www.foodfightfundvt.org/

Thank you to all of the activists across the state for this victory!

Read the VPR article about the signing ceremony and check out a great slideshow of photos from the event here.

Looking for more information? GMO Myths and Truths is a newly updated and substantially expanded edition of the original publication which came out in 2012. In particular, it summarizes many of the most recent studies and research. It is authored by two genetic engineers, Dr. John Fagan and Dr. Michael Antoniou and researcher Claire Robinson. If you’re ready to dig deeper into the science of GMOs this is your summer reading!

2014 Campaign Highlights

April 23rd: Vermont legislature passes the nation’s first “no strings attached” GMO labeling bill! The House of Representatives voted 114 to 30 to concur with the Senate’s version of H.112, and the bill now heads to Governor Shumlin’s desk for his signature. This is a huge victory for consumers everywhere and it would not have happened without the efforts of people like you! Read the final version of H.112. Find out how your representative voted.

The following statement was issued by Governor Shumlin shortly after the passage of the bill: “I am proud of Vermont for being the first state in the nation to ensure that Vermonters will know what is in their food. The Legislature has spoken loud and clear through its passage of this bill,” Shumlin stated Wednesday afternoon. “I wholeheartedly agree with them and look forward to signing this bill into law.”

H.112 will require labels on GMO foods starting in 2016, and would go in to effect without actions in other states. We could not have asked for a better outcome, and it is all thanks to you!

This campaign has been energizing and inspiring to all of us who have worked to label GMO foods. The nation is watching what we are doing here, and it is all because Vermonters like you stood up and made it clear they have a right to know what is in their food.

April 22nd: GMO LABELING BILL FINAL VOTE WED. APRIL 23

The House Ag Committee voted 9-2 to concur with the Senate’s amendments to H.112, the GMO Labeling Bill. They arrived at this decision after consultations with the House Judiciary and Appropriations Committees. There was a lot of discussion, many questions were asked and in the end they agreed that the Senate did a good job of strengthening the bill.

April 16th: VT Senate passes GMO Labeling Bill, H.112, 28-2! The House of Representatives will now decide whether to accept the Senate’s bill, or form a conference committee to review it further. Stay tuned for updates!

April 15th: Vermont Senate votes 26-2 to approve the GMO Labeling Bill. Check the roll call to find out how your senator voted.

Vt Senate Chamber

Vt Senate Chamber

April 11: GMO Labeling Bill Heads to a Senate Floor Vote

On Thursday afternoon the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed the VT GMO Food Labeling bill. They made only minor changes and the bill now heads to the Senate Floor for a vote early next week.

April 4th: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-0 to move H.112 forward. The bill would put labels on GMO foods starting July 1st, 2016.

The bill will be moving on to the Appropriations Committee next week and then hopefully to the Senate Floor. The Appropriations Committee will look at how to create a fund for individuals to contribute to help with implementation of the law. Things are really heating up in the State House, so we need you to contact your Senator and ask them to pass H.112 “as is.”

Read a summary of H.112 as passed by the Judiciary Committee. Read a helpful list of talking points about H.112.

March 24th: GMO Bill Moves Through the Legislative Gauntlet

The Senate Judiciary Committee

The VT Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee has been taking substantial testimony on the bill (H.112) during the past two weeks. This included a panel of “experts” addressing the constitutional issues in the bill. Thanks to everyone who has come to the State House to attend the committee sessions.


Policy Update:
Leaders of the VT Right to Know Coalition give video update on VT’s GMO Labeling bill and what it will take to pass the bill this year – you can help!

Public Hearing Victory: Senate Agriculture Committee Approves GMO Labeling Bill 4-1

Photo by Roger Crowley

Photo by Roger Crowley

Following a packed public hearing in the House Chamber the night before, the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee met on 2/7/14 to review proposed changes to H.112, the GMO Labeling Bill. They then passed the bill by a vote of 4-1 with no trigger clause to impact the effective date of the bill. The bill will now be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it will likely be taken up some time after the Town Meeting week break.

Photo by Roger Crowley

Photo by Roger Crowley

1/16/14 CITIZEN LOBBY DAY FOR GMO LABELING A HUGE SUCCESS!

Thank you to all of the activists who came from every corner of the state to rally and lobby their senators in support of labeling genetically engineered foods.


Read highlights from event here.

If you haven’t already, please join the VT Right to Know GMOs email list to receive timely updates and information on how you can get involved.

The work of Rural Vermont and the Vermont Right to Know Coalition over the past two years has been successful in building overwhelming grassroots support for the issue and convincing Vermont legislators of the importance of GMO Labeling for Vermonters.

By David Fitzsimmons, Cagle Cartoons, originally published in The Arizona Star

By David Fitzsimmons, Cagle Cartoons, originally published in The Arizona Star

2013 Campaign:

On Friday, May 10th, 2013, the Vermont House of Representatives became the first state legislative body in the nation to pass a GMO labeling bill with a resoundingly positive vote of 99 to 42. Legislators received more messages from GMO Labeling supporters than on any issue in recent years. On May 18, 2013, while being interviewed on Vermont Public Radio, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin pledged his support for H.112 and stated that he looked forward to signing the bill.

Interested in learning more about GMOs? Watch the Burlington Grassroots Action Forum on GMO Labeling! A recording of the 2/28/13 event can be streamed here thanks to Channel 17 Town Meeting Television. Email us to find out how you can get involved today!

Visit this page to learn about a 2012 event in Burlington where protestors said NO to Monsanto’s claim that its genetically engineered seeds and crops represent the future of sustainable agriculture.