Author Archive: Falko Schilling

Cropped GMO Label

Attorney General Holds Listening Sessions on GMO Labeling Rule

Recently the Attorney General hosted a series of meetings across Vermont to introduce their first draft of the proposed rules for Act 120, Vermont’s first in the nation GMO labeling law. Act 120 was passed by the Vermont legislature in May, and genetically engineered food sold in Vermont will need to be labeled starting July 1st 2016. Under the law the Attorney General’s office is tasked with developing the rules that lay out exactly how the law will be implemented.

This series of meetings was the first step in developing the state’s GMO labeling rules. The Attorney General’s office laid out the timeline below to let Vermonters know the next steps in the process.

  • Winter/Spring 2015: Formal comment and public meeting period
  •  July 2015: Anticipated final rule approval
  • Summer 2015: Issue guidance on compliance and enforcement
  • Summer 2016: Labeling starts

There are a number of ways that you can stay in the loop and have your voice heard on this important issue. The first step is to read the Attorney General’s proposed rule. The rule builds off of Act 120 and further clarifies issues such as what is “processed food” and what are meals prepared for “immediate consumption”. These details matter and they will have an impact on what labeling looks like in Vermont.

See the Attorney General’s Powerpoint on the proposed rule here, or read the proposed rule here.

Once you have looked over the proposed rule you can comment to the Attorney General at any time by contacting ago.GEFoodLabelingRule@state.vt.us

Finally if you want to receive the latest updates on the Attorney General’s rulemaking process you can sign up here.

Thanks for all you do and make sure you comment so you can have your voice heard!

Dr. Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva to Speak in Favor of VT’s GMO Law

*Update: Update: If you would like to watch a recording of Dr. Shiva’s talk from Nov. 2nd in Burlington click here! (note this is an unedited recording of the live stream so the presentation starts at approximately 14:00 on the video counter)

Dr. Vandana Shiva, the internationally recognized scientist and activist will visit Vermont on November 2nd and 3rd for two public speaking engagements. Dr. Shiva will speak in support of Vermont’s first-in-the nation, “no strings attached” GMO food labeling law. Her presentation is titled: Food System Transformation and Reversing the Climate Crisis: How Vermont’s GMO labeling law is part of the solution.

Dr. Shiva will speak on Sunday, November 2, 2014, 4:00-6:00PM at the Contois Auditorium in Burlington’s City Hall, 149 Church Street.*

Dr. Shiva will also speak at the Vermont Law School on Monday Nov. 3 at 5:00PM in the Chase Center. This event is sponsored by the VLS Center for Agriculture and Food Systems.

Both events are open to the public, and donations will be welcomed to support the on-going work of the Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition to implement and defend Vermont’s GMO food labeling law.
Dr. Shiva’s visit to Vermont is being facilitated and co-sponsored by the Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition which is a partnership of Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center, NOFA-VT, Rural Vermont and VPIRG.

To join the Facebook event for the November 2nd event in Burlington click here.

To join the Facebook event for the November 3rd event in South Royalton click here.

*Programs and activities held in facilities of the City of Burlington are accessible to people with disabilities. For information or to request accommodations, call (802) 865-7019 or (802) 253-0195 VT Relay Service.

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Attorney General Announces Public Meetings for GMO Labeling Rules

The Attorney General announced that next week they will hold a series of meetings across the state to discuss their proposed rules for Act 120, Vermont’s GMO labeling law. Below you can find the press release from the Attorney General’s office with all the details.

If you would like to receive updates from the Attorney General’s office whenever there is new information about the proposed labeling rules, you can sign up here.

News Release — Office of the Attorney General, Oct. 10, 2014

Contact:
Todd Daloz
Assistant Attorney General
(802) 828-4605

Attorney General William Sorrell will hold three public meetings this month to introduce the draft rules to implement Act 120, the law requiring the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering. The meetings will be held the week of October 20, 2014 in Burlington, Montpelier, and Brattleboro.

The Attorney General is responsible for promulgating the rules that will implement Act 120. These rules will provide clarity on the scope and reach of the law with the goal of both providing information and minimizing burdens on the regulated community. While the Attorney General will later solicit official public comments on the proposed draft rule, these public meetings will serve as an important opportunity for obtaining feedback from producers, retailers, and consumers.

Each of the meetings will include a thirty-minute presentation followed by an opportunity for public comments and questions. The Attorney General expects to make the draft rules public in advance of the meetings.
Details on the date, time, and location of each meeting follow:

Tuesday, October 21 12:00–2:00 PM
Contois Auditorium, City Hall 149 Church Street
Burlington, VT 05401

Wednesday, October 22 5:00–7:00 PM
Room 11, Vermont State House 115 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05633

Friday, October 24
3:30–5:30 PM
Room 2E, Marlboro College Graduate Campus 28 Vernon Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301

For directions to the Graduate Campus and parking information, visit
http://www.marlboro.edu/about/directions/brattleboro

More information about the implementation of Act 120 is available on the Attorney General’s website at http://www.ago.state.vt.us/, under the GE Food Labeling Rule link. Individuals can also contact the Attorney General’s GE Food Rulemaking Team via email at ago.gefoodlabelingrule@state.vt.us. People interested in keeping up to date on the development of the rules can also sign up for periodic email updates by visiting http://list.state.vt.us/guest/RemoteListSummary/GMOLabelingRule and following the directions there.

VPIRG hosted a GMO Labeling Campaign event at the Vermont State House Thursday advocating a strong GMO labeling bill be passed through the state Senate in the 2014 legislative session.

Your Right to Know is Under Attack

On Thursday June 12 the Grocery Manufacturers Association and their allies filed a lawsuit to stop Vermont from being the first state in the nation to require labels on GMO foods. This is a direct assault on Vermonters’ right to know what is in their food. This news is upsetting but not unexpected, and as we speak the State and members of the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition are working to mount a strong defense of the law. Vermont has written a strong and constitutional law, and with your help we can make sure we see labels on GMO foods.

The VT Right to Know Coalition will be joining Ben and Jerry’s and the Governor to rally at the Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop on Church Street in Burlington on Monday the 16th at 2:00 in support of our GMO labeling law and the Food Fight Fund! Come out bring your friends and a homemade sign, and show the GMA we aren’t afraid of their strong arm tactics. This will be a great chance to show your support, and we hope you will join us.

Hope to see you ¬¬Monday at 2:00 on Church Street in Burlington for the rally, and if you can’t come please make a donation in any amount to the Food Fight Fund to support your right to know!

VPIRG hosted a GMO Labeling Campaign event at the Vermont State House Thursday advocating a strong GMO labeling bill be passed through the state Senate in the 2014 legislative session.

Citizens Converge on Montpelier to Demand GMO Labeling

Citizens from every corner of Vermont came to the State House to rally, and lobby their senators in support of labeling genetically engineered foods (also known as GMOs). Continue reading

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Join us for the GMO labeling lobby day Jan 16th!

Dave Rogers, Policy Advisor of NOFA-VT discusses the upcoming GMO Labeling Lobby Day set for Jan. 16, 2014 in Montpelier, Vermont. The event was organized by Vermont Right to Know GMOs to bring citizen voices in to the State House in anticipation of a Senate vote on H.112, the bill that would label GMO foods sold in Vermont.

If passed, it will be the first GMO labeling bill to go in to effect in the United States of America.

You can view the video here!

zuckerman in ag committee

GMO Labeling Front and Center in the First Week of the Session

The 2014 Vermont legislative session kicked off this Tuesday and GMO labeling is a top priority on the agenda. H.112, the bill to label GMO foods, was sent to the Senate Agriculture committee where it was the primary focus of their work. The committee heard testimony from four members of the VT Right to Know GMOs coalition as well as from interests opposed to the bill.

Testimony began with Laura Murphy of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC) at Vermont Law School who walked the committee through an in-depth analysis of the legal issues involved with the bill. The ENRLC has spent over a year looking at the bill and has developed an extensive 70 page memo outlining the state’s strong legal footing in requiring GMO foods to be labeled. Murphy also outlined proposed changes to make the bill even stronger and more consistent with legislation recently passed by the legislatures in Connecticut and Maine.

Next, the Committee heard from Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) Consumer Protection Advocate Falko Schilling about the strong public support for GMO labeling and consumer’s right to know what they are eating and feeding their families. Schilling presented the committee with polls showing over 90% of Americans in support of GMO labeling, and reported on the VPIRG summer canvass where over 30,000 Vermonters signed post cards calling on their legislators to pass the bill this session.

On Friday the Committee heard from both Dave Rogers, the Policy Advisor at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA- VT), and Dan Barlow, the Public Policy Manager for Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR). Rogers outlined the number of studies that raise concerns about the possible negative health impacts associated with eating GMO foods saying, ”in light of the uncertainty around the health impacts of these foods labeling is the reasonable and prudent thing to do.”
Finally, the committee wrapped up the week with testimony from VBSR Policy Manager Dan Barlow in support of H.112. VBSR is a non-profit, statewide business trade organization with a mission to advance business ethics that value multiple bottom lines – economic, social, and environmental. VBSR is a strong supporter of the legislation with over 80% of their membership backing the bill. Barlow outlined how GMOs pose a threat to the Vermont brand and advocated that the state be bold in our actions and pass a bill that will not require action in other states to become effective.

The committee will hear more testimony next week as they move towards a likely vote in January. For the most up to date info make sure you like us on Facebook and keep checking back as we get deeper in the legislative session.

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VPIRG’s Testimony in Support of H.112

The following testimony was presented to the Senate Agriculture Committee in support of H.112, an bill that would require labels on GMO foods sold in Vermont.

To: Senate Committee on Agriculture
From: Falko Schilling, Esq., Consumer Protection Advocate, VPIRG

Date: January 9th, 2014
Re: Labeling of genetically engineered food products

For the record, my name is Falko Schilling and I am the Consumer Protection Advocate at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG).  VPIRG is the state’s largest nonprofit consumer and environmental advocacy organization with more than 30,000 members and supporters across Vermont.  VPIRG is one of the founding members of the VT Right to Know GMOs coalition which has grown to represent over approximately 200 farms, food producers, Co-oops and other organizations. I am here to testify in support of H.112 which would require labels on genetically engineered (GE) foods sold in Vermont.

In 2012 our coalition worked with members of the House of Representatives to craft the foundation of the bill that you see in front of you today. From day 1 our goal was to create a bill that informed Vermonters about what was in their food, and that was legally defensible. We believe that the bill in front of you accomplishes these purposes.

Vermonters currently don’t have the ability to know if food products have been produced using genetic engineering unless they are specially certified. This bill prevents consumer deception and gives Vermonters essential information to help them make informed choices about avoiding the health risks and environmental impacts associated with GE foods. We support H.112 for the following reasons.

Vermonters and the majority of Americans want GE foods to be labeled.

This summer VPIRG collected over 30,000 postcards from Vermonters in every corner of the sate asking their Senators to pass a GMO labeling bill this session.  The broad public support for this legislation is not surprising. Poll after poll has found that over 90% of Americans support GE labeling. [i] These Vermonters are simply asking for the same information that is available to citizens of the European Union, Russia, China and 64 countries around the world.

Labeling will give consumers greater ability to make informed food choices.

This bill will create common sense labeling requirements that will allow Vermonters to make informed decisions about what they eat and feed their families. Vermonters will also benefit from the prohibition of misleading and deceptive advertising that represents GE foods as “natural”.

GE foods are not adequately tested by the FDA.

The FDA does not test GE foods for their safety before allowing them to be sold for human consumption.  The FDA relies on tests conducted by the producers of these GE products to verify the safety of the GE foods.[ii]

A growing body of evidence indicates there is possible health risks associated with eating GE foods.

A recent study done by Canadian researchers found that 93% of pregnant mothers and 80% of their fetal cord samples tested positive for Cry 1Ab toxin.[iii] The study concluded that, “given the potential toxicity of these environmental pollutants and the fragility of the fetus, more studies are needed.”[iv]

GE corn varieties have been linked to organ failure in animals.[v] These effects were mostly seen in the kidney and liver, while other effects were seen in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and hematopoietic system.[vi]

Labeling will not increase the cost of food for Vermonters.

Reports prepared by Oregon State University and Emory University School of Law found costs associated with GE labeling to be negligible, less than $2.00 per person per year.[vii]

VPIRG and the VT Right to Know GMOs Coalition do not support a contingent effective date for H.112.

The state legislatures in Connecticut and Maine recently passed GE labeling legislation that would only become effective when similar legislation was passed other states. We do not support any modification to the effective date of H.112 that would make the bill’s implementation dependent on the actions of other states. A contingent effective date would not accomplish the purpose of the bill.



[i] Center for Food Safety.  Polls on GMO Labeling http://gefoodlabels.org/gmo-labeling/polls-on-gmo-labeling/

[ii] US Food and Drug Administration. Statement of policy: Foods derived from new plant varieties. FDA Federal Register. 29 May 1992; 57(104): 229.

[iii] Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reprod Toxicol. 2011 May;31(4):528-33. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2011.02.004. Epub 2011 Feb 18. Aris A, Leblanc S. Available at /www.uclm.es/Actividades/repositorio/pdf/doc_3721_4666.pdf

[iv] Id.

[v] A comparison of the effects of three GM corn varieties on mammalian health. Int J Biol Sci. 2009 Dec 10;5(7):706-26.de Vendômois JS, Roullier F, Cellier D, Séralini GE. Available at http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.pdf

[vi]  Id.

[vii] Studies found at http://www.anh-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/GE-Food-Act-Costs-Assessment.pdf, http://arec.oregonstate.edu/jaeger/personal/em8817.pdf

 

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Foul Play by Big Biotech

In September 2012, Gilles-Eric Séralini, authored a study  on the toxicological effects of rats fed GMO corn, published in The Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) journal, Elsevier. The study questioned the safety of GMO foods finding solid scientific evidence that the herbicide glyphosate, prominent in Roundup Ready GMO crops like corn and soy, has toxic effects in blood, liver and kidneys, and is associated with an increase of cancerous tumors in rats. Séralini states that the study was not designed as a cancer study, but rather a toxicological study, and that the cancer findings strongly underscore the need for further work to followup on the cancer findings. The study became highly controversial and the biotechnology industry has since gone to great lengths to discredit the paper.

In November 2013, shortly after the FCTs appointment of Richard Goodman, an ex-Monsanto scientist, to the new position of FCT Biotechnology Editor, the journal requested that Séralini withdraw the study claiming it was inconclusive. Séralini refused, maintains that the study is accurate, and has threatened to sue the journal.

The journal’s editor stated that “unequivocally” he had found “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data.” The study showed a higher incidence of tumors in rats fed GMO corn treated with Roundup. It replicated an earlier study by Monsanto except that the length of the study was extended from 90 days to two years.

The issues cited were the type of rat chosen which are prone to tumors (though the study of course compared the same type of rats not eating GMO & Roundup) and small sample size (more for the gender-based conclusions since these cut the sample size down to approximately ten sets of five rats.) Usually journal retractions are the result of scientific misconduct, not alleged in this incident.

The usual decision to retract the peer-reviewed study is seen by some as “illicit, unscientific and unethical”, and that inconclusive data was not sufficient grounds for retraction. An independent comparative study published in December 2013 shows that Séralini’s methods were the same methods used by Monsanto’s own safety tests. None of the compared industry studies have been retracted, in fact they are the main reference for their allowance on the market.

While this kind of double standard and foul play seems to be common practice for the biotech industry, it is unacceptable from the scientific community. The evidence is piling up against the safety of GMOs indicating a strong need for more independent studies and less reliance on clearly biased and flawed industry studies. As independent findings questioning the effect of GMO’s on human safety and the environment continually arise from the global community, each year more countries respond by requiring labeling or an outright ban of GMO’s. Currently, 64 countries around the world require labeling of genetically engineered foods including the 15 nations in the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and even China. Although 93% of Americans want labels on GMO’s, there are no restrictions in the United States.

Séralini [maintains](http://gmoseralini.org/professor-seralini-replies-to-fct-journal-over-study-retraction/) that his study is accurate and that it indicates a need for more independent studies to determine the health effects of GMO’s. Long term epidemiological studies have not been done, in part because U.S. food producers and processors are not required to disclose genetic engineering in their products through labeling. There is currently no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs. According to the ‘Statement: No scientific consensus on GMO safety’ signed by 230 scientists in October of 2013,

“We feel compelled to issue this statement because the claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist. The claim that it does exist is misleading and misrepresents the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of opinion among scientists on this issue. Moreover, the claim encourages a climate of complacency that could lead to a lack of regulatory and scientific rigour and appropriate caution, potentially endangering the health of humans, animals, and the environment.”
Credits: Written by Cat Buxton with contributions from the Center for Ag & Food Systems at Vermont Law School. Photo: Tamara Martin

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It’s Time to March Against Monsanto

$4,800,000. That’s how much biotech giant Monsanto has spent so far fighting a GMO labeling initiative in Washington State. With such deep pockets likely to turn their attention to fighting Vermont’s labeling bill, and we want you to join us for the October 12th March against Monsanto.

With the legislative session right around the corner, we will soon be fighting to make sure the Senate passes a strong GMO labeling bill. Last year, Vermont became the first state to pass a GMO labeling bill through any legislative chamber, and now we are set to get it to the Governor’s desk in 2014. To make this happen we need to show our legislators that Vermonters demand a strong GMO labeling bill.

Representatives from the VT Right to Know GMOs coalition will be on hand to discuss this year’s campaign, and how the people of Vermont can win in the fight to know what’s in our food. Join us in Montpelier October 12th at 10 a.m. on the State House lawn and take part in the global March Against Monsanto.

October 12th is World Food Day so organizers are asking everyone to bring non-perishable, non-GMO foods to benefit our low-income Vermont neighbors. Bring your canned goods and we will see you there.

Sign up here!