Vermont GMO Labeling Advocates Decry U.S. House Passage Of Safe And Accurate Food Labeling Act
The House of Representatives may have struck a blow to a state law in Vermont signed by Governor Peter Shumlin last year. The law requires the labeling of food products made with Genetically Modified Organisms – or GMO’s. Now being challenged in court, it also faces another legislative battle as the new legislation in Congress moves forward.
On Thursday, the U.S. House passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act– which opponents have dubbed the DARK Act or Deny Americans the Right-to-Know Act on a vote of 275 to 150. The bill would block individual states from requiring GMO labeling and create a voluntary system managed by the FDA.
Following the vote, Vermont Representative Democrat Peter Welch denounced the chamber’s approval of the measure. “This legislation fundamentally takes away from your state and mine the ability to do what they believe is in the interest of their consumers: let them know what they’re buying. And by the way, what’s the problem with letting consumers know what they’re buying?”
Several groups in Vermont strongly advocated for the state’s GMO labeling law. Rural Vermont Executive Director Andrea Stander says her glimmer of hope looking at the House vote is that there were more opponents than anticipated. “Vermont’s law would get the rug pulled out from under it essentially if this legislation were to pass. My sense is that the Senate has a lot of other more important business on its agenda. Why these companies are fighting so hard to stop our right as citizens to know what’s in our food is just astounding to me. What are they hiding?”
Governor Shumlin was quick to condemn the House vote, issuing a statement zeroing in on corporate influences including Monsanto. His statement said the vote “… shows that they are quite skilled in using …vast resources to buy votes in Congress.” Scott Coriell is the governor’s spokesman. “Vermont took the common sense step of requiring that in 2016 foods made with GMO’s would be labeled. And the fact that Congress is weighing in and trying to keep states like Vermont from imposing their common sense laws doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to him.”
VT Businesses for Social Responsibility testified before a House committee on the need for mandatory GMO labeling. Interim Executive Director Avram Patt says support of GMO labeling is part of the growing demand for healthier foods. “I noticed while we were in a state that doesn’t have a bottle law on a lot of the sodas that were sold there was no information about deposits such as you would see in Vermont or in other states where there is a deposit. Since we’re talking about GMO’s and labeling that’s an example of bottlers that are adjusting their labeling based on the state it’s sold in. So being able to customize your labeling is not that big a deal.”
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell says the vote in the House was disappointing but expected. He adds it will not affect legal challenges to Vermont’s GMO labeling law. “This action by the House alone will have no impact on Vermont’s law or on the ongoing litigation. Now if the Senate passes and then the President signs it into law, well that’s a different story entirely.”
Calls to supporters of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act were not returned in time for broadcast.
Attorney General Sorrell says it is possible that the state’s GMO labeling law could go into effect as scheduled on July 1, 2016.