Author Archive: Kati Gallagher

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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

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The DARK Act strikes back

Sign the letter: Tell the Senate to Reject the Dark Act – click here!

The DARK (“Deny Americans Right to Know”) Act is back, and Vermont’s GMO labeling law is being attacked again.

Thanks to persistent citizen action across the country we succeeded in stopping the DARK Act this winter, but with four months to go before our labeling law is fully implemented, it’s now or never – for both sides of this issue.

In typical D.C. fashion, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced the Senate version of the DARK Act late Friday and wants to vote the bill out of committee this week. This bill threatens not only Vermont’s GMO food and seed labeling laws, but it would codify our broken voluntary labeling system and stop any state or local government from passing future laws. Instead of siding with the majority of Americans and the 64 countries around the world that already require labels for genetically engineered food, some lawmakers are following industry suggestions to block state rights to inform their citizens.

The new DARK Act is once again putting big-moneyed special interests above the public interest; corporate food and biotech lobbyists are racing the clock to push legislation through the Senate, in order to stop Vermont’s law from taking effect this July. Sen. Roberts’ version could in fact be worse than the original bill, as it also eliminates Vermont’s seed labeling law, which has required genetically engineered seeds to be labeled for years.

Thankfully, Vermont’s federal delegation has strongly supported the labeling law, as well as championing efforts to create a federal mandatory GMO labeling standard. Now their colleagues need to hear that voters will not stand for this corporate power grab at the expense of the people of Vermont and our right know about the food we eat and feed our families.

Over two thirds of our state legislators signed on to a letter urging Senators to respect the people of Vermont and our democratic process, and now it’s your turn. We expect that this bill is likely to move out of the Agriculture Committee before the week is over, so we need you to act now!

Please take a minute to sign our letter and we will make sure to keep you updated as we hear more from Washington.

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Federal spending bill rejects anti-GMO labeling push!

In a win for the 90% of Americans who support labeling GMO products, the federal spending bill released this morning not only rejected industry’s push for anti-labeling language, but included a provision requiring labeling for genetically engineered salmon!

This puts Vermonters another huge step closer to seeing labels on GMO foods next summer. The biotech and junk food industries have been fighting tooth and nail to preempt states’ ability to label genetically engineered products, and in particular to kill Vermont’s law before companies need to start the labeling process. In fact, lobbying by anti-labeling groups is expected to top $100 million just for this year, which doesn’t even include the amount being spent fighting state ballot initiatives.

Their most recent strategy to try to block mandatory GMO labeling through an end-of-the-year, must-pass spending bill was further proof of the underhanded tactics used to sidestep the broad citizen support for labeling and the rights of states to implement labeling requirements.

Lawmakers also responded in the omnibus spending bill to the FDA’s approval last month of genetically engineered salmon. The Agency will be required, for the first time, to develop labels for the AquAdvantage salmon before they are allowed on the market – this is a really incredible victory for right to know advocates!

VPIRG and the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition would like to extend a special thanks to our congressional delegation and elected officials for standing up for our right to know what’s in our food. We know that the biotech and junk food industries have not given up this fight and will be back come January. They will continue to try and use their influence in Washington to keep consumers in the dark, but we will continue to fight for your right to know. Stay tuned for more updates as we get ready to see labels on GMO foods this summer.

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Will backroom deals trump your right to know?

Right now Congress is trying to finish up their business before they head home for the holidays. The one thing that the biotech industry and junk food giants have on the top of their wish list is for Congress to pass legislation that will stop Vermont’s GMO labeling law from going into effect. Right now they are putting massive resources into convincing Senators to include language in a must-pass spending bill that would wipe out Vermont’s hard won labeling law.

One thing that is very clear from the current debate in Washington is that people are taking notice of what we did here in Vermont. After our initial victory at the US District Court, corporate lobbyists have descended on Washington to make sure their clients don’t have to tell Americans what is in the food that they eat and feed their families.

Earlier this summer the House of Representatives passed what has been dubbed the Deny Americans Right to Know Act, or DARK Act. This legislation would not only eliminate Vermont’s labeling law but it would codify our current voluntary labeling system, make it difficult to create a national labeling standard, and allow genetically engineered foods to be labeled as “all natural”. So far the DARK Act has not moved in the Senate thanks to a strong defense of constituent rights and values.

But, this is why big special interests are trying to use their influence in Washington to slip similar language in a must-pass spending bill last minute, which would let them off the hook from letting consumers know what is in their products. Going around the 90% of Americans who support mandatory GMO labeling is simply an affront to our democratic principles, and as Senator Patrick Leahy explained, “the omnibus bill is no place for this kind of legislative rider.”

As the clock ticks down to the end of the year, we keep hearing about new ways that the biotech and junk food industries are trying to stop Vermont’s landmark labeling law. These proposals have ranged from replacing mandatory labels with voluntary “QR” codes that could be scanned with a smartphone and the correct application, to stopping Vermont’s law from going into effect for two years so that lobbyists have more time to push their corporate agenda.

Luckily Vermont’s congressional delegation and elected officials are standing strong for your right to know. Senators Leahy and Sanders as well as Representative Welch have all co-sponsored legislation that would give Americans what they are overwhelmingly asking for, mandatory on-package GMO labeling. They have also spoken out about the DARK Act and attempts to slip similar language into end of the year spending bills. This is why our top state officials including Governor Shumlin and Attorney General Sorrell recently submitted a letter to our delegation thanking them for their leadership on the issue, and asking them to keep up the fight in Washington (letter below).

As this drama unfolds in the coming weeks we will keep you updated about what you can do to stand up for your right to know. Vermonters from every corner of the state worked hard to make sure we were able to make informed decisions about our food, and we will do whatever is in our power to make sure our law is not wiped out by backroom deals in Washington D.C.


 

December 10, 2015

Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Bernie Sanders
Representative Peter Welch

VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL

Dear Senators Leahy and Sanders, and Representative Welch:

On behalf of the State of Vermont, we thank you for your continued support of Vermont’s labeling law for genetically engineered foods. We are grateful for all your efforts to date and thank you for speaking out against efforts to preempt this law in Congress. As the legislative process progresses toward the close of the year, we ask you to remain especially vigilant and continue to protect the rights of the citizens of Vermont and the law they supported.

We strongly oppose H.R. 1599 (the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015”), as well as any provision that might be attached to the omnibus appropriations bill that would prevent the full implementation of Vermont’s mandatory labeling law and any provision that would trade QR codes for mandatory disclosures on the food products themselves. As you know, Vermont’s labeling law was passed in 2014 with the overwhelming support of Vermonters and their legislators, and it has withstood the first round of legal actions against our State. Though the law is the first of its kind in the United States, American consumers overwhelmingly favor mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. A recent poll by the Mellman Group found that 89 percent of likely voters want these foods labeled, with 88 percent preferring printed labels over scannable QR codes. Labeling enjoys broad international support as well, with 64 countries already requiring labeling for genetically engineered foods.

Vermont’s law requires that foods produced with genetic engineering say so plainly on the products (“produced with genetic engineering”). Anything less at the federal level—including efforts to substitute QR codes for easy-to-read labels—should be rejected. Vermont’s law enables consumers to obtain important information about the foods they eat, it serves as a model for other states, and it should stand.

Now is a crucial time for transparency in our food system. Though powerful corporate interests are doing everything in their power to prevent Vermonters from knowing that their food is produced with genetic engineering, we urge you to continue working on our behalf until Vermont’s law is fully implemented.

Thank you for your ongoing support, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Peter Shumlin, Governor
William H. Sorrell, Attorney General
John Bartholomew, Representative
Carolyn Partridge, Representative
Kate Webb, Representative
Teo Zagar, Representative
Dave Zuckerman, Senator