Yesterday citizens from every corner of Vermont came to the State House to rally, and lobby their senators in support of labeling genetically engineered foods (also known as GMOs). Last year the Vermont House of Representatives became the first legislative chamber in the country to pass a GMO labeling bill, and the debate has now moved to the Senate where the bill is being taken up by the Agriculture Committee.
Early in the afternoon, citizens gathered on the snowy State House lawn for a rally in support of H.112, the bill that would label GMO foods. The crowd heard from Senator Dave Zuckerman, a member of the Agriculture Committee who said, “For personal, health, and environmental reasons, Vermonters have made it clear, they want to know what is in their food. We are on solid legal ground with this legislation and we should move forward with a bill that supports Vermonters’ reasonable wishes.”
Zuckerman’s remarks were supported by VPIRG Consumer Protection Advocate Falko Schilling who said, “We have the chance to lead the nation by requiring labels on GMO foods. As you can see by the number of Vermonters who braved the cold to come to Montpelier in the middle of January, and the 30,000 plus signatures we collected this summer, Vermonters want this bill passed now.” Schilling went on to say, “We have seen similar bills fall down in the face of opposition from biotech companies and junk food giants, but here in Vermont our legislators listen to their constituents, and that is what is going to make all the difference.”
Schilling was followed by Andrea Stander, Executive Director of Rural Vermont who said “Everyone eats every day – if they are fortunate. Rural Vermont believes that choosing what foods we eat and feed our children is fundamental for everyone. Requiring that genetically engineered food be labeled is a small, reasonable, and essential step toward ensuring that everyone can choose the foods that support their values.”
Next, Dave Rogers of NOFA-VT commented on the reasons people want to see GMO foods labeled saying, “A growing body of research is showing that the health and environmental risks of GMOs are poorly understood. And yet, approximately 75% of the processed foods on our market shelves are made with GMO materials. Clearly, consumers deserve to know if the food they are buying and serving their families contain these substances and labeling is the best way to provide them with this information.
Finally, Cat Buxton of Cedar Circle Farm spoke to the crowd saying, “As of last year 50 countries required regulations on GMO foods, now 64 countries do. Big Food is spending millions in the US to fight a simple, reasonable, and prudent label. Vermont is no place for corporate bullies to have any sway. Vermonters need to encourage our Senate to be brave, to stand with the people, and to pass H.112 as it is written and put the darn label on the food!”
In a written statement Ben and Jerry’s affirmed their support for these efforts saying, “Ben & Jerry’s believes that companies should be proud to tell people what is in the products they sell. Opponents of GMO labeling have charged that GMO labeling would increase the cost of food. At Ben & Jerry’s we know a little something about food and labels, and like all food companies we make regular changes to our packaging, without resulting in high costs to consumers. There is no evidence to support that adding 4 words “produced with genetic engineering” to a label will have any impact on the cost of food.”
After rallying on the State House steps activists held a meet and greet for senators to discuss where they stand on the bill. H.112 is currently in the Senate Agriculture Committee, which is planning on holding a public hearing at the end of January. It is expected that the Committee will vote on the bill in early February.