Ethan A. Huff
March 13, 2013
The state of Vermont is poised to become the first in the nation to mandate the labeling of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), following the recent passage of H.112 by the Vermont House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products (HCAFP). In an historic eight to three vote, HCAFP voted in favor of the “GMO labeling bill,” which would require producers to put labels on raw agricultural, processed, and packaged food products that contain genetically-modified (GM) ingredients.
As reported by Vermont Right to Know GMOs, a grassroots collaboration of farmers and citizen activists working towards honest food labeling in Vermont, HCAFP’s affirmation of H.112 is just the first step in a potentially long journey toward full transparency in food labeling. But the committee’s affirmative vote is “a very positive sign,” according to the group, and one that indicates the ultimate goal of getting GMOs labeled is definitely within reach.
“It’s a consumer bill,” Rep. Will Stevens, an Independent from Shoreham and member of HCAFP that voted in favor of H.112, is quoted as saying to the Addison County Independent (ACI) about the bill. “It lets people have information that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”
Though similar versions of the bill introduced in both 2011 and 2012 were defeated, there appears to be broad and growing support among legislators for this year’s version. According to ACI, 50 members of the Vermont House and 11 members of the Vermont  Senate have already signed on as cosponsors to H.112, and many more could be swayed in the coming weeks to lend their support as well.
“Vermonters have a right to know what’s in their food, and right now GMOs are a threat to the Vermont brand,” says Dan Barlow, a lobbyist for the group Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, which openly supports H.112. “I think this move can only strengthen the Vermont brand going forward.”
Vermonters urge Gov. Shumlin not to cave to pressures from Monsanto to oppose H.112
The next step for H.112 will be a review process by the House Judiciary Committee, according to ACI. If it survives this review, H.112 will then go to the floor for a vote, and eventually on to Governor Peter Shumlin who will have to sign it into law. But as reported by the Times Argus, Gov. Shumlin has already indicated his belief that the bill will “cause more harm than good,” presumably referring to threats of lawsuits by Monsanto and others in the biotechnology industry.
But many Vermonters see things differently, including Roxbury resident Michael Feiner who recently wrote an open letter to Gov. Shumlin that was also published in the Times Argus. In his letter, Feiner calls Gov. Shumlin out for “hemming in the face of Monsanto,” and urges him to stand strong and be a man.
“Monsanto wants to sue, bring it on!” says Feiner. “You want to show what kind of politician you can be, start by showing what kind of man you can be and tell Monsanto exactly what they can do with their GE experiments.”