Monthly Archives: March 2016

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General Mills, Kellogg, Con Agra, and Mars will label Genetically Engineered Foods in the U.S.

Over the past week, four of the nation’s largest food manufacturers have announced that they will join Campbell’s in labeling genetically engineered foods sold in the United States to comply with Vermont’s upcoming GMO labeling law.

Food giants General Mills, Kellogg, Con Agra, and Mars made their announcements after a bill to eliminate Vermont’s GMO labeling law failed to advance in the US Senate last Wednesday. Vermont’s labeling law, Act 120, is set to take effect on July 1st, 2016, and all four companies say that they will label their products in accordance with Vermont’s law. Campbell’s announced in January that they will be labeling all their products sold in the US and called for a national mandatory labeling standard. These announcements signal a momentous shift in the national conversation, and undercut industry talking points that labeling food would drive up costs to consumers.

General Mills U.S. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Harmerning stated, “We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers and we simply will not do that.

The result: consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products”

In a statement on their website, Mars discussed their plans saying “In 2014, the state of Vermont passed a mandatory genetically modified (GM) ingredient labeling law that requires most human food products containing GM ingredients to include on-pack labeling as of July 2016. To comply with that law, Mars is introducing clear, on-pack labeling on our products that contain GM ingredients nationwide.”

On Monday Kellogg stated that they will comply with Vermont’s labeling law, and that some product labels nationwide will include the words “produced with genetic engineering”.[i]  Con Agra followed suit with an announcement soon after. All four manufacturers called for Congress to act to pass a uniform national standard for GMO labeling when they return from recess in early April.

It is expected that Vermont’s labeling law will remain a front burner issue for the Senate as July 1st and Vermont’s labeling law draw closer.

 



[i] http://www.agri-pulse.com/Mars-to-label-GMOs-joining-industry-competitors-03212016.asp

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Another victory for consumers and VT’s labeling law!

In a win for consumers across the country today, the U.S. Senate voted 48-49 against advancing a bill, known as the new Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, which would preempt Vermont’s GMO labeling law. In a press conference among representatives from the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition and legislative champs, Vermont Governor Shumlin spoke of our most recent success in the drawn out battle for common sense labeling:

“The food industry, led by Monsanto, has left no stone unturned in their effort deny consumer rights and thwart Vermont’s law. Today’s effort in the U.S. Senate was just the latest attempt. It will not be the last. Vermont will continue to fight to implement our law on July 1st and give consumers the right they are demanding.”

Earlier this month the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry passed the bill, which was introduced by the committee chairman Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). In the attempt to leave “no stone unturned,” industry opponents and their allies in Congress sought to trample on state and individual rights by ignoring the democratic process and passing a bill that received no hearings or discussion in committee or on the Senate floor. On Monday night of this week Sen. Roberts introduced a revised version of his bill, but today it failed a cloture vote without the 60 votes needed to close debate.

Sen. Roberts’ version of the DARK Act would have not only preempted Vermont’s labeling law, but potentially over 130 other state seed and food protection laws as well. Under the bill’s plan, companies would continue to make voluntary disclosures and after three years the USDA Secretary would determine whether 70% of the most frequently consumed packaged food had adequate disclosures. If they did not, USDA could require a mandatory solution, such as mandatory toll-free numbers, QR codes, or web sites; these types of “solutions” however are no substitute for a simple, equitable, and accessible GMO disclosure line on food packaging.

The Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition opposed both the original and amended Roberts bill, and would like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone, including Vermont’s congressional delegation, who have been vocal in their opposition. In response to the vote today, Senator Pat Leahy noted, “Vermont has done pioneering work on behalf of consumers, and Vermont’s law is a good place to start that national debate.”

 

 

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It’s now or never for our right to know.

Senator Roberts’ despicable version of the DARK Act is going to the full Senate for a vote TOMORROW MORNING at 11am. If passed, Roberts’ bill would not only seek to stop all present and future mandatory labeling of GE food (including Vermont’s Act 120) but also potentially rescind over 130 other state seed and food protection laws! Now more than ever, we need all hands on deck.

The Senate vote is projected to be extremely close. Since the Vermont congressional delegation is already supporting our right to know, we are asking you to help influence the positions of other key Democrats. We need you to make calls TODAY to the following senators, and forward this email to your friends and family in the following states! It’s truly now or never for your right to know.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) (202) 224-2023
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) (202) 224-4024
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) (202) 224-2441
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) (202) 224-2043
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) (202) 224-5042
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) (202) 224-3954
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) (202) 224-5852
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) (202) 224-6324
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) (202) 224-5641 ​

Here’s what to say when you call…

Americans want the Right to Know:

Dispelling GMO Labeling Myths:

  • GMO labeling will not increase food prices. Companies frequently change labels to highlight new innovations and GMO label will not act as a warning.
  • Voluntary labeling will not work. Companies have been allowed to make voluntary non-GMO disclosures since 2001, but consumers are more confused than ever.
  • There is no “patchwork quilt.” Current state GMO labeling laws are virtually identical, so there will be no “patchwork quilt” of different state laws.
  • GMO crops do not feed the world. Conventional and GMO corn and soybean yields have increased at the same rate. What’s more, U.S. farmers produce only 4 percent of rice, wheat, fruits, and vegetables, and most U.S. corn and soybeans are mostly used for animal feed and ethanol, not food.
  • GMO crops have increased herbicide applications. Widespread adoption of GMO crops has increased annual applications of glyphosate – a probable human carcinogen – from 16 million pounds to more than 280 million pounds.
  • GMO crops have led to more toxic herbicides. As weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, farmers have turned to more toxic weed killers linked to cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and reproductive problems.​​

 

Questions? ​Email maddie@nofavt.org. And THANK YOU for standing up for Vermonters’ right to know!

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Update: the DARK Act moves to Senate floor

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture voted in favor of the new “DARK Act” this week, sending the bill to the Senate floor.

The bill, introduced by Chairman Pat Roberts, is designed to stop the movement for GMO labeling in its tracks- undermining the public’s right to know and states’ rights to inform their citizens about the potential health and environmental implications of the products they buy. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives this summer.

With Vermont’s labeling law set to be implemented this July, biotech and big food industries are scrambling for a last minute measure to block it. This bill goes even further than preempting Vermont’s law and would have a significant impact in jurisdictions beyond Vermont. According to an analysis by the Center for Food Safety, the Roberts bill would preempt at least 137 existing statutes, regulations and ordinances at the state and municipal level.[i] Some of the laws that would be blocked include Alaska’s labeling requirement for genetically engineered fish and shell fish, as well as Vermont and Virginia’s longstanding GE seed labeling laws.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy stood among others to denounce the intentions and potential impact of the bill. Leahy pointed to the absence of hearings and discussion of the Senate bill as an affront to Vermont’s democratic process. Vermont’s GMO labeling law, he noted, was passed only after “The Vermont Legislature held 52 committee hearings, and heard 136 presentations of testimony on both sides of the food labeling issue…

I’ll tell you one thing: This legislation, rushed forward without even a hearing, is a solution looking for a non-existent problem.  It is a last minute attack on Vermont’s law, and on Vermonters’ right to set priorities at the state government level.”

While it is unclear whether this legislation has enough bipartisan support to pass the Senate, a new mandatory labeling bill has been introduced from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that would require the disclosure of GMO ingredients on Nutrition Facts labels. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Leahy.

Please take a minute to add your name to our letter to the U.S. Senate, asking them to protect our right to know.

 

[i] http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/files/dark-act-legal-summary_2_24_16_51265.pdf