Approximately 250 citizens from all over Vermont converged on the State House Thursday night to testify in front of the Senate Agriculture and Judiciary Committees in support of H.112. Reflecting the widespread support of the bill in Vermont, every single person testifying, about 80 people, spoke in support of labeling GMOs.
The message was clear and straightforward. “It’s about choice,” said testifier Nova Kim, “I and other Vermonters simply want to be able to choose.” This sentiment was echoed many times over throughout the night, with many others referencing the potential role of GMO crops in the increasing prevalence of food allergies and other health problems – a role we may never understand without proper labeling. “Is it GMOs [causing the problems] or is it not?” asked Kelly Cummings, “I want to know the answer to this question.”
Many other testifiers alluded to other products that have been historically touted as safe, then later found to have serious health implications – products like tobacco, asbestos, DDT, dioxin, and bovine growth hormones. Li Shen referenced several studies showing the impact GMO feed had on animals in controlled experiments, citing significant liver and pancreas damage. In addition to the human impact, several testifiers spoke to the environmental impact of GMO crops. Elizabeth Howard, for example, a scientist who studies monarch butterflies, noted the serious decline in the butterfly population due to increased spraying of Roundup on GMO crops in the mid-west. She wants to know what agricultural methods she’s supporting when she goes to the grocery store.
The trigger clause was on the minds of the people as well, with many testifiers saying the current bill was “too weak,” and that the trigger clause needed to go. Many said they did not want to wait for other states to decide if Vermont labeled GMOs. “Giving New Hampshire the power to determine whether the Vermont law goes into effect is unacceptable,” said Stuart Blood of Thetford Center, “I don’t have a representative in the New Hampshire House and I don’t have a New Hampshire Senator. What’s at stake is not just my right to know what’s in my food, but there’s also a question of whether I live in a democratic state.”
It was clear that for many citizens attending, the issue was as much one about democracy as it was about labeling. They called on the legislature to resist the threats of corporate interests, and instead protect the people. Michelle Robins of Williston reminded the Senators that Vermont was the first in the nation to “ban fracking, and to abolish slavery, to legalize gay marriage, and to label CFLs,” and urged the legislature to listen to their constituents and lead the nation on GMO labeling as well.
Emotions ran high in the State House last night, and people could barely contain their excitement and support after many testifiers spoke or sang. Midway through the event Shane Bowley and Janice Russotti brought their guitar up to the Senators and sang an original song about labeling GMOs (listen to the mp3 below!), a tribute to the late Pete Seeger and his faith that songs can change the world.
Thank you to everyone who came out and showed their support! Stay tuned for the next steps in this campaign – your continued activism is essential!