Category Archive: Uncategorized

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Debate Continues on. H.112

This Last Wednesday the Senate Judiciary Committee continued their deliberations on H.112, Vermont’s GMO labeling bill. The Committee has spent the last two weeks examining the work done by their colleagues in the House and the Senate to make sure that the bill is as strong as possible.

The Committee spent the morning hearing from a diverse set of voices about what products should be labeled if the bill becomes law. One concern of the Committee is should the bill also require labels on meat and milk that comes from animals that are not genetically engineered.

The Committee did not come to any resolutions, and will continue their work on the bill, and a vote could happen as early as next week. Keep checking VTRightToKnowGMOs.org and our Facebook and Twitter pages for the latest on what’s happening in the State House.

In the meantime, please help share your support for GMO labeling with your community by writing a letter to the editor of your local paper.Vermont is poised to become the first state to actually see labels on GMO foods. The dedicated work from our supporters helped get us here; please don’t let up now. Your voices are even more crucial than ever- submit a letter to the editor.

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Doyle Poll Results, Senate Vote Likely This Week

The results are in from Senator Doyle’s annual Town Meeting survey, and the people have spoken! The majority of Vermonters want to see labels on genetically engineered foods. 76% of responders voted yes to the question “Should food products sold in Vermont produced with genetic engineering be labeled?,” with 15% responding “no” and 9% saying they were “not sure.” Thank you to all who took the time to submit your thoughts via the poll. Didn’t get a chance to fill out the survey, but still want your voice heard? Consider writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper! Its a great way to make sure the legislature knows how you feel and to start a conversation about GMO labeling in your community.

The survey results are heartening news as we move into the last of the Senate Judiciary hearings this week. On Wednesday, the committee will be hearing another round of testimony from various food and agricultural interests from around the state, leading up to a possible vote on H.112. While there will be no opportunity for public comment, all those wishing to observe the proceedings are welcome to Room 11 of the State House on Wednesday morning. We will be posting updates via facebook and twitter Wednesday afternoon with the results of the vote should it take place. Stay tuned!

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Senate Committee Hears Testimony on GMO Labeling

Wednesday morning the Senate Judiciary committee met to hear testimony from expert witnesses regarding the GMO Labeling bill, mostly regarding the constitutionality of the bill and the potential legal challenges faced by Vermont should H.112 be passed.

There was some opposition to the bill being voiced at this hearing. Stanley Abramson , a lobbyist representing the biotech industry, opposed the bill saying that GMO labeling would be “misleading” since it implies a difference between GMO and non-GMO foods. Val Giddings of the Information Technology Foundation argued that consumers can already choose non-GMO foods by buying organic or “Non-GMO Project” certified foods.

To counter these arguments, Laura Murphy, a professor at Vermont Law School’s environmental law clinic, testified in favor of the bill. She noted that the bill as written is constitutional and would have a good chance of withstanding a challenge in the courts. VPIRG’s Falko Schilling echoed this sentiment, noting that ”we think since the state of Vermont has adopted the concerns of their citizens having to do with health, safety and the environment, what makes the most sense is to say let’s just go forward and put this law into effect since we have done the work to vet it and make sure it’s constitutional.”

For more information about the constitutionality of H.112, you can check out this memorandum from the Environmental & Natural Resources Law Clinic, as well as these factsheets, one with a brief Q&A about legal precedence for the bill, and the other a more detailed outline of H.112′s legal points.

The committee will meet again this morning to further discuss the bill. Read more about Wednesday’s hearing at vtdigger.com, and listen below to a recent WAMC radio piece featuring members of the VTRTK coalition:

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GMO OMG Director Jeremy Seifert and VPIRG's Falko Schilling

A Week in the Life of a Labeling Bill

Excitement around H.112 has been building again this week!  Not only are we in the middle of a series of fantastic events, but the GMO Labeling bill will again be the topic of discussion in the state house! The Senate Judiciary committee will be hearing testimony from expert witnesses this Wednesday and Friday. Testimony is scheduled to begin on Wednesday morning, and will focus on the constitutionality of, and the legal issues surrounding, H.112. Discussion in committee will continue on Friday morning. If anyone is interested in coming to the state house to observe the testimony (they won’t be taking public comment this time around), the full committee schedule can be found here – remember to double check before leaving to make sure the schedule hasn’t changed!

In other news, the film screenings and workshops being held around the state have been great! Thanks to everyone who came out — we’ve already shown the film to well over 200 people and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. If you haven’t already attended, we encourage you to come out to film screenings in Middlebury and Woodstock this week, and a GMO workshop scheduled for Brattleboro. Click here to find the times and locations of these events, and remember to spread the word to friends and family living in those areas!

Looking for another way to get involved? Right now, the most important thing everyone can do is to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. This is great way to create a dialogue with your neighbors, as well as to publicly support the bill and show our legislators that their constituents care about this issue. Want help drafting your letter, or need to know where to send it? Click here to find some tips, talking points, and guidelines on how to submit your letter to various papers around the state. When you decide to submit, let us know by emailing eliza@vpirg.org! Thanks so much for your help!

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Join us for a film screening or workshop!

Interested in seeing a new documentary about GMOs? Or attending a free workshop co-sponsored by your local co-op? This week, there’s lots of fun and informative events happening across the state. We’d love it if you joined us!

Film screenings of GMO OMG, a documentary by Jeremy Seifert, will be held in St. Johnsbury, Middlebury and Woodstock this week. For more information about times and locations, click here.

The free workshop series continues this week in Brattleboro. At this workshop, the VT Right To Know coalition will give customers the tools they’ll need to navigate the current marketplace, affect the change necessary to create a new GMO-free marketplace, and to pass a GMO labeling law in Vermont. For more information about times and locations of these workshops, click here.

We hope you can join us for one of these events, where you can learn more about GMOs, where the labeling campaign stands right now, and how you can get involved to help pass H.112!

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Policy Update: GMO Legislation in VT

Curious where things stand with H.112? Check out this video with Dave Rogers, Andrea Stander, and Will Allen to learn more about the past, present and future of Vermont’s GMO Labeling Legislation!

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VT Businesses Call for Passage of VT GMO Labeling Legislation

Group calls the proposed law, good for consumers, the food industry, and the Vermont brand

Today, business leaders representing a broad cross section of Vermont’s food industry including suppliers, manufactures, and retailers, gathered at the Statehouse in Montpelier, VT to urge lawmakers to pass mandatory GMO labeling legislation, H.112.  Representatives from Ben & Jerry’s, Two Guys in Vermont, New Chapter, Black River Produce, Healthy Living, Liz Lovely and VBSR, all called on the legislature to make Vermont a leader in food freedom and transparency.

The group noted that Vermonters have a reputation for taking food seriously. They identify with food, and are passionate about knowing where it comes from, and what’s in it.  Vermonters want to shop their values, which is why GMO labeling is so important. The label serves as that link to making educated decision about what to purchase. H.112 would ensure that Vermonters are able to align their food purchases with their values.

Chris Miller, Activism Manager at Ben & Jerry’s said, “Food companies should be proud to tell consumers what’s in the products they are selling.  And if they don’t want to share that information, then people should really wonder ‘why?” Ben & Jerry’s is in the process of labeling all of their products, which will be complete by mid-2014. Miller added, “we’ll label all of our products without effecting the price fans pay for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

Opponents of GMO labeling have suggested that H.112 would increase the cost of food for consumers.  Jeff Weinstein, Founder of Vermont specialty food company Two Guys in Vermont and supporter of H.112 said, “food companies make changes to labels all the time without raising prices. New ingredients or recipes changes, marketing and branding changes, as well as an ever-changing regulatory landscape are just a few reasons we might make a change to our label.  It’s not a big deal to label GMOs, minor label changes are just a cost of doing business”.

Non-GMO labeled food is one of the fastest growing trends in the food industry, and retailers nationally and in Vermont have been advocates on behalf of their shoppers for transparency in the food system.  The national grocery chain Whole Foods Market announced that it will require labeling of all items sold in their stores by 2018.Here in Vermont, many food retailers are supporting their shoppers’ call for GMO labeling.  Eli Lesser-Goldsmith of Healthy Living Market said, “What brought us around on the issue was one simple sentence-’people deserve to know what’s in their food.’ We have agreed with that since the day we started Healthy Living Market almost 30 years ago, and today we still believe in that”.

 

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Over 200 Businesses Sign On in Support of Labeling

We wanted to take a moment to share with you how happy we are that over 200 businesses have signed our petition in support of GMO labeling. Despite the claim that some have made that labeling harms businesses, the list we have shows that producers, manufacturers, grocers, and advocacy organizations both in Vermont and outside the state have expressed overwhelming support for the passage of H.112.

Check out the ongoing list we’ve compiled of our supporters! Don’t see your favorite businesses on here? You can easily print our petition to bring to them, or ask them to sign on via our website! Printed petitions can be returned to us at VPIRG c/o Falko Schilling 141 Main St. Ste. 6 Montpelier, VT 05602.

[tab name="VT Producers/Manufacturers"]

Agricola Farm
Allen Brothers Farms
American Flatbread
Anjali Farm
Applecheek Farm
Back Roads Granola
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
Blissful Dairy
Blue Meadow Farm
Boutin Family Farm
Bryn Meadow Farm
Butterworks Farm
Capitol Grounds
Carmen’s Baked Goods
Cedar Acres Organic Beef
Champlain Orchards
Chanhassen Farm
Clean Spoon
Clear Brook Farm
Cold Hollow Cider Mill
Dancing Rock Farm
Deer Ridge Farm
Does’ Leap
Doolittle Farm
Eagle’s Flight Farm
Earthwise Farm & Forest
Food Works Vermont
Four Springs Farm
Franklin Farm
Gleason Grains
Green Mountain Orchards
Gringo Jack’s
Hazen Monument Farm
Hidden Springs Maple
High Meadows Farm
High Ridge Meadows Farm
Highfields Farm
Hogwash Farm
Hope Roots Farm
Hurricane Flats
Intervale Center
Jasmine’s Bakery
Jericho Settlers Farm
Judy’s Vermont
Kangen Water
Kimball Brook Farm
LePage’s Rising Sun Farm
Lilac Ridge Farm
Littlewood Farm
Livewater Farm
Liz Lovely
Long Wind Farm
Lovejoy Brook Farm
Luna Bleu Farm
Mack Hill Farm
Maple Wind Farm
Maplewood Organics
Marble Rose Farm
Marijke’s Perennial Gardens Plus
McGrath Family Farm
Michelle’s Specialty Foods
Middlebury College Organic Farm
Mighty Food Farm
Moonlight Farm
Mother Nature’s Garden Society
New Leaf CSA
New Village Farm
Not Your Ordinary Farm
Nutty Steph’s
Oliver Hill Farm
Pebble Brook Farm
Per’s Smoked
Popplewood Farm
Poultney Pure Organics
Raven Ridge Farm
Raycin Farms
Rhapsody
Robb Family Farm
Rooster Ridge Farm
Roselily Farm
Shelburne Orchards
Singing River Farm
Slowfire Bakery
South Valley Farm
Sugar Mountain Farm
Surfing Veggie Farm
Sweet Tree Farm
Taylor Farm
Teeny Tiny Spice Co. of Vermont
The Last Resort Farm
The Skinny Pancake Montpelier
Thyme and Sage Herbs
Timeless Wisdom Farm
Too Little Farm
Trevin Farms
Trukenbrod Mill & Bakery
Two Guys in Vermont
Valley Dream Farm
Vermont Natural Foods Company
Vermont Shepherd
Von Trapp Farmstead
Walker Farm
Weed Far
Westminster Organics at Harlow Farm
Whetstone Ledges Farm
Wild Branch Mushrooms
Wild Carrot Farm
Winchester Farm
Windham Wines
Windstone Farm
Witchcat Farm
Wood’s Market Garden
Woodbelly Pizza
Wormpost Vermont
Yummy Yammy

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[tab name="VT Businesses"]

Brattleboro Holistic Health Center
Chelsea Green Publishing 
Dixie Plumbing Specialities
Eat More Kale 
Farm Resource Consulting Service
Floral Gates Nursery
Flowers by Olga
Good Medicine Tree
Greenmont Farms
Guilford Solar Gardens
High Mowing Seeds
Labour of Love Landscaping
Magic Wheel Community Bike Shop
New Chapter
North End Butchers
Putney School
ROOT Consulting
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Thistle Hill Pottery
Vermont Compost Company
Vermont Farm Tours
Vermont Soap
Vermont’s Local Banquet Magazine
Vital Living
Wagatha’s
Wisdom of the Herbs School

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[tab name="Non-VT Businesses"]

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps
Elliot Equine Services
Green Living Journal
New Forest Organic
Nutiva
Organic Valley Co-op[/tab]

[tab name="Non-VT Producers"]

Kona Biodynamic Farm
Point of View Farm
Slow Tractor Farm
Wild Ginger Farm

[/tab][tab name="VT Advocacy Orgs"]

350 Vermont
Food Works Vermont
Friends of Burlington Gardens/Vermont Community Garden Network
Green Mountain Draft Horse Associaton
Institute for Social Ecology
Mad River Valley Localvore
Post Oi Solutions
Transition Town Montpelier
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
Vermont Public Health Association

[/tab][tab name="Non-VT Advocacy Orgs"]

CA Right to Know
Center for Food Safety
Food Democracy Now
GMO-Free Buffalo
National Organic Coalition
Organic Consumers Association
Organic Consumers Fund

[/tab][tab name="VT Grocers"]

Adamant Co-op
Southshire Community Market
Brattleboro Food Co-op
Buffalo Mountain Co-op
City Market/Onion River Co-op
Deep Root Organic Co-op
Dorset Farmers Market
East Warren Community Market
Hanover Co-op Food Store
Hunger Mountain Co-op
Manchester Farmers Market
Maple Wind Farm
Maplewood Organics
Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op
Mount Holly Farmers Market
Natural Provisions Market
Peacham Farmers Market
Plainfield Co-op
Putney Food Co-op
Rutland Area Food Co-op
South End Market
South Royalton Market
Spice N’ Nice Natural Foods
Springfield Food Co-op
St. J Food Co-op
Stone Valley Community Market
Sweet Clover Market
Upper Valley Food Co-op
Westmore Farmers Market
White River Co-op
Willoughby Lake Farmers & Artisans Market

[/tab][tab name="Non-VT Grocers"]

New Morning Natural Foods

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[end_tabset]

 

 

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Lessons from New Hampshire

A few weeks ago, HB660 – New Hamphire’s GMO labeling bill – was defeated in the House of Representatives by a slim margin of 185-162. This happened despite similar legislation recently passing in both Maine and Connecticut, and a recent poll showing that 90% of New Hampshire voters support a GMO labeling law. This is certainly not the end of the road for the Granite State. The Senate will soon take up the issue, and there is a strong coalition of nonprofits, farmers, business owners and concerned citizens, that has grown over the past six months and will continue to push for mandatory labeling.So what can we learn from this? What happened in New Hampshire, and how we can we defend ourselves against it here in the Green Mountain State?

In the weeks leading up to the NH House’s decision, there was an incredible amount of opposition to the bill originating from out-of-state lobbyists including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), biotech corporations like Monsanto, and other food industry allies. At a recent House hearing, for example, industry reps showed up at the door, handing out anti-labeling propaganda that ranged from not telling the whole truth (such as the op-ed written by the CEO of the New Hampshire Grocers Assocation, whose title was conveniently omitted from the handout) to outright lying. One of their deceptive arguments was anchored on the supposed harm to local industries such as the Granite State Brewers Association and the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, who incidentally would be exempt from the bill and thus not impacted by its passing. These arguments were also repeated in a full-page advertisement taken out in local newspapers.

These are similar tactics to those employed in the GMA’s successful fight against labeling in Washington and California, but it’s not all they have in their bag of tricks. The Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, for example, is currently suing the GMA for violating the state’s campaign disclosure laws, referencing its failure to reveal the corporate sources of $11 million in campaign funds. GMA’s response? To sue the state of Washington in return and file a civil rights claim against them.

The point is that even though Vermont hasn’t seen much in the way of industry misinformation tactics, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t heading our way. They’re already in the neighborhood, so to speak. We all need to pay attention to their strategy so that when we see it in our state, we’re better prepared to respond to it. Expose the scare-tactic arguments for the falsities they are. Bring to light the legal battles they are finding themselves in due to their contempt for local campaign disclosure laws. Mount a counter-argument against their current strategy of suggesting a federal voluntary labeling scheme in place of the state-by-state mandatory labeling approach. They may be beter funded but with your help, we can be better organized. 

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Senate Agriculture Committee Approves GMO Labeling Bill 4-1

Following a packed public hearing in the House Chamber the night before, the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee met this morning to review proposed changes to H.112, the GMO Labeling Bill. They then passed the bill by a vote of 4-1 with no trigger clause to impact the effective date of the bill. Clearly impressed and even moved by the out-pouring of passionate, well-informed testimony in favor of the bill at the public hearing (no one spoke against GMO labeling) the Committee first removed two alternative “trigger” clauses they had been considering over the past few days. They then edited the House version of the effective date for the bill making it simply July 1, 2015. “It is a strong vote for state autonomy and Vermonters’ clear indication that they want this information due to their environmental and health concerns.” said Sen. David Zuckerman following the vote. Although Sen. Norm McAllister cast the lone vote against the bill, he did support removing the trigger language in a preliminary vote. All members of the Committee expressed their appreciation for the Vermonters who attended the Public Hearing and in turn the VT Right to Know advocates, who were in the committee room for the vote, thanked the members of the Committee for their diligent work and for holding the public hearing. Falko Schilling, Consumer Protection Advocate for VPIRG and a partner in the VT Right to Know Coalition said “Last night’s public hearing made clear what we already knew, the vast majority of Vermonters support this bill and want to see GMO foods labeled. The Agriculture Committee has spent the last month putting in long hours making this bill as strong as possible and we are extremely pleased with the result of their work.” The bill will now be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where there will be further debate about its merits most likely beginning some time after the Town Meeting week break. In the meantime, stay posted for ways you can help move the bill forward. Thank you to all those who made it to the hearing last night, and all our supporters throughout Vermont!