On Thursday, two US Senators – Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) – announced that they had reached a deal on a national GMO labeling bill that would preempt Vermont’s law set to go into effect on July 1st.
This bill would delay labeling for up to two years, while the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture develops rules for the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The Secretary would be charged with developing three options of disclosure including a plain language label, a symbol, and electronic or digital links accompanied by the wording “scan here for more food information”.
This proposal has a number of substantial flaws and that is why VPIRG, Senator Bernie Sanders, Governor Shumlin, and consumer and environmental groups from around the country have unified in opposition to the Stabenow Roberts bill. VPIRG Consumer and Environmental Advocate Falko Schilling commented on the proposal saying,
“Allowing companies to opt out of on-package disclosure is just another industry giveaway aimed at keeping consumers in the dark about what is in their food. A national labeling law that doesn’t require on-package labels just doesn’t pass the straight face test.”
Under the bill there are no penalties for lack of compliance, and numerous avenues for big food to negatively influence what the final requirements will look like.
Vermont’s two senators could play a vital role in stopping this bill from moving forward. Yesterday, Sen. Bernie Sanders had this to say about the bill: “I am going to do everything I can to defeat this legislation.” Sen. Sanders has acted by putting a “hold” on the bill, which means that at least 60 votes will be needed to pass it out of the Senate. Sen. Pat Leahy has also been a consistent champion of a consumer’s right to know. Yesterday, he made clear that he has concerns about the bill and invited Vermonters to “share their thoughts with him about this new proposal.”
Governor Peter Shumlin has also come out in opposition to the proposal saying, “I’ll be working with Sen. Leahy, Sen. Sanders, and Rep. Welch in the coming days to see if we can remedy the serious defects in this national legislation. If we cannot, this legislation should not become law and I will oppose it.”
Whatever happens in D.C., it will not happen in time to stop Vermont’s labeling law before it goes into effect on July 1st, but that does not mean Vermont’s law is safe.
That is why VPIRG, the Vermont Right to Know coalition, Vermont’s political leaders, and advocates from around the country will be gathering on July 1st at noon on the State House lawn in Montpelier to celebrate Vermont’s law, and to call on Congress to stop the sham GMO bill backed by Roberts and Stabenow — and we hope you’ll join us!
For more information on the bill see the resources below.
Language of the Stabenow-Roberts bill
Governor Shumlin’s statement
Senator Sanders’ statement
Senator Leahy’s statement
Consumers Union statement in opposition to the bill
Center for Food Safety statement in opposition to the bill