Vermont Co-ops Unanimously Support GMO Labeling Legislation

Today, representatives from co-ops across the state of Vermont gathered at the Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier to announce their unified support for GMO labeling legislation currently under consideration in the State House. The co-ops are joined by 6,811 Vermonters and 175 farms and businesses from across the state who have signed on in support the VT Right to Know GMOs campaign.

“We feel that it is time to require GMO labeling in Vermont” stated Hunger Mountain Coop General Manager Kari Bradley. “Regardless of how one feels about GMOs, consumers have a fundamental right to know what is in their food.”

“These co-ops are the heart beat of their communities and to have their unanimous support says a lot about the growing demand for common sense labeling,” said Falko Schilling, Consumer Protection Advocate at Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “Many consumers are concerned about these products for a number of reasons and they want the ability to make informed decisions about what they are buying. Without labels, it is extremely difficult for retailers to give their customers definitive answers about if their food has been genetically engineered.”

Annie Gaillard of Buffalo Mountain Co-op said “The customers that come into our store can pick up a package and tell if it is gluten free, low fat, low salt, whether it contains nuts, if it is organic. Right now they cannot find out if it has genetically modified ingredients in it. When I try to research a company’s GMO policy, I am often told ‘we don’t knowingly use GMO ingredients.’ Does that mean that if they don’t ask, then they don’t know, so they are not accountable? If genetically modified organisms are so great, they should be proud to have it on their label, just like a company is proud to say they ate gluten free, or organic. Why are they trying to hide it?”

Allison Weinhagen of City Market also discussed the difficulty of letting consumers know if their food contains GMOs saying, “City Market fundamentally believes in our members’ and consumers’ right to make educated choices about what they put into their bodies and into their children’s bodies. We share information about a variety of topics at the Co-op, including our dairy products, meat choices, and bulk items; we’re not able to offer an appropriate level of information on GMO in foods because these products are generally not labeled. As a Co-op, we operate to serve the needs of our members; in a recent survey of our members and customers, an overwhelming 95% favored GMO labeling.”

Enid Wonnacott, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont spoke about the work being done in the legislature on this issue saying “The health and environmental risks of GE are poorly understood and poorly regulated, yet non-GE labeled food products are among the fastest growing products in the food marketplace. The VT House Agriculture Committee, after weeks of testimony and investigation, came to the same conclusion. That’s why the majority of Vermonters want these products labeled and expect the legislature to do the right thing.”

H.112, the bill that would require labeling of genetically engineered foods sold in Vermont, is currently in the House Judiciary Committee where testimony is scheduled to begin this Thursday. Earlier this session the House Agriculture Committee approved the bill with a vote of 8-3.