Monthly Archives: April 2012

Where Do Your Legislators Stand?

It was just over 2 months ago that the Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition launched its campaign to label genetically engineered foods sold in Vermont.  With the extraordinary grassroots support of thousands of Vermonters like you, and thousands of other cheerleaders around the country, we set out on what we knew would be difficult work against powerful and entrenched corporate interests.

After weeks of testimony by diverse experts and well over one hundred Vermonters, the VT Right to Know Genetically Modified Food Act (H.722) was passed by the House Agriculture Committee on April 20th.  Vermonters made it very clear to their elected officials that they have a right to know what is in the food they eat and feed their families.

But with limited time left in the session, it is now clear that the legislature will not pass the bill this year. We, like you, are frustrated and disappointed, but this does not mean that we will stop our advocacy on this important issue.  We are already working to build on everyone’s hard work, and will come back next session with an even stronger bill.

Once again, we ask for your help.  Election season is fast approaching and it is important to find out where each of our representatives stands on this critical issue.Please take a moment to contact your Senators and Representatives before the legislative session ends on May 5th.

Contacting them is simple and quick, just click here. Simply ask them, if they are elected, will they support a bill calling for the labeling of genetically engineered food.

After you have contacted your lawmakers, click here to let us know where they stand on this issue. Whether their answer is Yes, No or Maybe, this information will be extremely useful in our grassroots organizing and legislative efforts and success next year.

On behalf of NOFA VT, Rural Vermont and VPIRG, thank you for your strong support and excellent work on this issue. We look forward to working with you and everyone as we prepare for the next legislative session.

Our organizations will be in touch to let you know about other issues and programs we are working on of importance to Vermont’s consumers, farms, food system and environment.

Onward ….

Falko Schilling
Consumer Protection Advocate,
VPIRG
falko@vpirg.org
802-223-5221 x.26
David L. Rogers,
Policy Advisor,
NOFA Vermont
Dave@nofavt.org
802-434-4122
(NOFA office)
802-244-6446
(Home office)
Andrea Stander
Executive Director,
Rural Vermont
andrea@ruralvermont.org
802-223-7222

H.722 Passes out of Committee

On April 20th the House Agriculture Committee voted 9-1 in favor of labeling of genetically engineered foods sold in Vermont. The vote came after the Committee had heard nearly a month’s worth of testimony, including the April 12th public hearing when hundreds of the bill’s supporters packed the House chamber. The more than one hundred citizens who testified unanimously called for passage of the bill. Since then, the committee has been working to make the bill stronger and more legally defensible.

“This vote puts the people of Vermont one step closer to getting the information they deserve about the food they are eating and feeding their families” said VPIRG Consumer Protection Advocate Falko Schilling. “The Committee heard a lot of compelling testimony about why these foods need to be labeled, and I think the bill that they voted out reflects that.”

With the legislative session drawing to a close the fate of the bill is uncertain, but it will most likely move to the House Judiciary Committee before it could come up for a vote on the house floor.

To stay up to date with the efforts to label genetically engineered foods in Vermont make sure to follow the campaign on Facebook and on Twitter

Hundreds Gather in Support of Vermont GMO Right to Know Rally and Hearing

A great account of the April 12th public hearing by Farm Aid’s Joel Morton.

Farm Aid was on hand last Thursday evening at the statehouse in Montpelier where hundreds of Vermonters from all four corners of the state gathered to rally and publicly testify in support of bill H722, which would require clear labeling of all GMO products sold in the state. So many supporters of the bill packed the statehouse that the hearing before the House Agriculture Committee had to be moved from a smaller room onto the statehouse floor in order to accommodate everyone who wished to testify. In all, 111 citizens (including yours truly) testified before the committee, every single one of them speaking in favor of the proposed bill.

The evening was an object lesson in public organizing and a stirring example for millions of others around the nation who are beginning to stand up to government inaction and corporate bullying on GMO issues. Spurred by collaborative outreach by community-based organizations such as Rural Vermont, NOFA Vermont and VPIRG, Vermont farmers, business people, teachers, parents, students, the elderly and the very young came together to demand their right to know what is in the food they consume.

At the rally on the footsteps of the statehouse prior to the hearing and also during his testimony during the hearing, organic farmer Will Allen of Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center proposed the creation of a state legal defense fund to counter Monsanto’s threat to sue the state if H722 were to pass during this legislative session.

Others testifying echoed Will’s proposal by flashing their checkbooks at Ag Committee members and stating that they were prepared to contribute to help defend the state and its citizens from corporate legal attack. Others testifying brought a wide range of personal and community concerns to the table. Registered nurse Judy Persin testified personally to the ill health effects of unknowingly consuming GMO-laced food products. Former New York City firefighter Rich Conti testified on behalf of other recovering 9-11 first responders, attributing his own recovery partly to his commitment to eating only the highest quality non-GMO foods. Dozens of other Vermonters spoke eloquently and forcefully in defense of citizens’ right to know what is in their food.

Another fascinating aspect of the evening was its “Occupation” inflection. After an initial warning from a statehouse official to remain quiet during hearing testimony, the crowd immediately shifted to use of the “silent cheer” made popular at Occupy general assemblies nationwide, signaling their approval of testimony with arms outstretched and hands and fingers wagging back and forth. Take a close look at this photo showing the “silent cheer” in action.

Farm Aid was on hand at the rally and hearing to help ensure that Vermont legislators understand that the nation is indeed watching, and that we fully expect our elected officials, in Vermont and elsewhere, to follow the will of the people. We will continue to support and participate in grassroots organizing to take back control of our food system. Please let us know what you’re doing in your neck of the woods!

Click here to check to check out the Farm Aid blog.

 

Vermonters Fill State House in Support of GMO Labeling

The Vermont State House was filled to capacity Thursday night for the public hearing on H.722, the bill that would label genetically engineered foods in Vermont. People came from all corners of New England, and unanimously called the members of the House Agriculture Committee to pass H.722. In all, legislators heard testimony from one hundred and twenty-two citizens who asked them to vote the bill out of committee, and for the bill to become law. “One hundred percent wanted us to pass the bill,” said Committee member Will Stevens.

 Those who wished to testify were each given a minute to voice their opinions to legislators. With rapid-fire testimony for approximately two hours, the crowd maintained a quiet decorum. Despite a few uncontrolled outbursts of applause, the crowd fulfilled the committee’s wishes to remain silent, and would raise their hands in unison to voice support for those testifying.

One of the many people calling for the passage of the bill was VPIRG Consumer Protection Advocate Falko Schilling, who delivered the names of the 4,001 Vermonters who had signed the VT Right to Know GMOs petition in support of H.722 since mid-February. “We have seen an overwhelming response to this bill and it is gaining more support every day,” said Schilling, “It was clear from being in the chamber tonight that Vermonters want to see their legislators stand up for their right to know what they are eating.”

H.722 is still in the house Agriculture Committee with more testimony slated for this week. Follow the campaign on Facebook by liking VT Right to Know GMOs.

Unnatural Buffet at State House Raises Questions About GMO Labeling

The Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition held an “Unlabeled and Unnatural Buffet” at the Vermont State House today. The problem: right now, without a law requiring GMOs to be labeled, we just don’t know.

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