The People Have Spoken: Pass H.112 Without a Trigger!
February 7, 2014
Approximately 250 citizens from all over Vermont converged on the State House Thursday night to testify in front of the Senate Agriculture and Judiciary Committees in support of H.112. Reflecting the widespread support of the bill in Vermont, every single person testifying, about 80 people, spoke in support of labeling GMOs.
The message was clear and straightforward. “It’s about choice,” said testifier Nova Kim, “I and other Vermonters simply want to be able to choose.” This sentiment was echoed many times over throughout the night, with many others referencing the potential role of GMO crops in the increasing prevalence of food allergies and other health problems – a role we may never understand without proper labeling. “Is it GMOs [causing the problems] or is it not?” asked Kelly Cummings, “I want to know the answer to this question.”
Many other testifiers alluded to other products that have been historically touted as safe, then later found to have serious health implications – products like tobacco, asbestos, DDT, dioxin, and bovine growth hormones. Li Shen referenced several studies showing the impact GMO feed had on animals in controlled experiments, citing significant liver and pancreas damage. In addition to the human impact, several testifiers spoke to the environmental impact of GMO crops. Elizabeth Howard, for example, a scientist who studies monarch butterflies, noted the serious decline in the butterfly population due to increased spraying of Roundup on GMO crops in the mid-west. She wants to know what agricultural methods she’s supporting when she goes to the grocery store.
The trigger clause was on the minds of the people as well, with many testifiers saying the current bill was “too weak,” and that the trigger clause needed to go. Many said they did not want to wait for other states to decide if Vermont labeled GMOs. “Giving New Hampshire the power to determine whether the Vermont law goes into effect is unacceptable,” said Stuart Blood of Thetford Center, “I don’t have a representative in the New Hampshire House and I don’t have a New Hampshire Senator. What’s at stake is not just my right to know what’s in my food, but there’s also a question of whether I live in a democratic state.”
It was clear that for many citizens attending, the issue was as much one about democracy as it was about labeling. They called on the legislature to resist the threats of corporate interests, and instead protect the people. Michelle Robins of Williston reminded the Senators that Vermont was the first in the nation to “ban fracking, and to abolish slavery, to legalize gay marriage, and to label CFLs,” and urged the legislature to listen to their constituents and lead the nation on GMO labeling as well.
Emotions ran high in the State House last night, and people could barely contain their excitement and support after many testifiers spoke or sang. Midway through the event Shane Bowley and Janice Russotti brought their guitar up to the Senators and sang an original song about labeling GMOs (listen to the mp3 below!), a tribute to the late Pete Seeger and his faith that songs can change the world.
Thank you to everyone who came out and showed their support! Stay tuned for the next steps in this campaign – your continued activism is essential!
Live Stream of GMO Labeling Public Hearing
February 6, 2014
Not able to make it to the State House for tonight’s public hearing? You can still listen in from home to hear your fellow Vermonters testify in support of H.112! Vermont Public Radio is providing online streaming of the event.
The live stream should be available after 5:30pm, with the actual hearing beginning at 6:00. To listen, click here to open up the stream in your browser window. To open the stream in a separate program like iTunes or Windows Media Player, you can go to VPR’s Online Stream page, scroll down and click on “Vermont House”
Buses, Carpool, Housing Available for Thursday’s Public Hearing
February 4, 2014
Want to come to the public hearing this Thursday night but either live too far away or don’t want to drive? Need a place to stay in town after the event? We can help! For those of you living near Bennington, Manchester, Sharon, Wilder, Newport, or St. Johnsbury, we have booked two charter buses! One will leave from Bennington at 2:00pm, stop in Manchester, Wilder and Sharon, then arrive in Montpelier around 5:00pm. The other bus will leave from Newport at 3:00pm, make a stop in St. Johnsbury around 3:45pm, and arrive in Montpelier around 5:00pm. (See details below.)
Once you arrive at the State House, come meet us in Room 11. We hope to see you all on Thursday! Stay tuned for other updates in preparation for the event!
THE SOUTHWEST BUS: Bennington/Wilder/Sharon Bus Details:
- Bennington (Stop #1): We are asking everyone to meet at Spice N’ Nice Natural Foods (223 North St. in Bennington)by 1:45pm at the latest. Because there isn’t room for the bus in the Spice N’ Nice parking lot, everyone will need to walk over to the Goodwill parking lot (215 North St.) to board the bus. The bus will leave from the Goodwill parking lot at 2:00pm.
- Manchester (Stop #2): We are using Zoey’s Double Hex restaurant (just off Route 7 at 1614 Depot St./Route 11) as the Manchester bus pick-up point. Anyone taking this bus will need to be in the Zoey’s parking lot by 2:20pm — please carpool if possible and park in the back of the lot. The bus will leave at 2:30.
- Wilder (Stop #3): The bus will stop at the Park & Ride on Rte 5 in Wilder, VT. Be ready to board at 3:30.
- Sharon (Stop #4): The bus will stop at the Sharon Trading Post in Sharon, VT located on the corner of Rte.132 and Rte.14, off exit 2 on I-89 in Sharon. Please park at the park & ride (diagonally across the street ) and walk over to the Trading Post. NO parking at the Trading Post please! Be ready to board at 3:50 on the Rte.132 side of the parking lot away from the gas pumps.
THE NORTHEAST BUS: Newport/St. J Bus Details:
- Newport (Stop #1): We are asking everyone to arrive at Newport Natural Market and Cafe (194 Main St. in Newport) by 2:45pm at the latest. The bus will leave from Newport Natural Market at 3:00pm.
- St. Johnsbury (Stop #2): The bus will make a stop at St. J Food Co-op (490 Portland St. in St. J) on the way to Montpelier. Please arrive at St. J Food Co-op by 3:30 at the latest. The bus will leave from St. J Food Co-op at 3:45pm.
Speak out in support of GMO Labeling next Thursday
January 29, 2014
Last year we filled the well of the State House with citizens from all corners of Vermont. They helped us raise the volume of grassroots voices calling fro commonsense labeling of GMOs. This is the year we can make that happen – and we’ve got another chance next week to make sure YOUR voice is heard by the State Senators who will cast the critical votes to make this happen.
We’re mobilizing hundreds of Vermonters from Averill to Bennington to Wilmington to Vernon and everywhere in between to come to the public hearing on GMO labeling this coming Thursday, Feb. 6th from 6 to 8pm at the State House. We hope you can join us. We’ll be helping to arrange transportation, carpools and even housing fro those that want to make the trip to take part in this momentous opportunity to let legislators hear directly from you.
Download the poster and help us spread the word.
Citizens Converge on Montpelier to Demand GMO Labeling
January 17, 2014
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
Join us for the GMO labeling lobby day Jan 16th!
January 14, 2014
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!
GMO Labeling Front and Center in the First Week of the Session
January 10, 2014
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.
VPIRG’s Testimony in Support of H.112
January 10, 2014
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
[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
[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
GMO activists plan path to success
November 14, 2013
The Right to Know Coalition leaders and activists are charting our next steps to victory. After what we saw industry opponents spend to get their way in Washington, mobilizing our grassroots strength here in Vermont is key to our success. Join us in Montpelier for a massive GMO labeling lobby day on Thursday, January 16, 2014. Continue reading
It’s Time to March Against Monsanto
October 11, 2013
$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!