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Why Is Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin Bowing to Monsanto?

Shumlin has repeatedly expressed reluctance to stand up to Monsanto despite the fact that 90 percent of Vermonters support labeling genetically modified foods.

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Shumlin’s fears are dubious and weak. Surely by now the governor knows that no progress is being made at the national level. The health and security of our food supply do not seem to be a government priority. Why would a popular governor, believed by some to be eyeing a national office, think that our comatose federal government is going to fix this when the FDA has failed consumers on the issue of GMOs for nearly two decades?

As for a loss in Vermont setting a negative precedent? The governor has only to look at what happened after Proposition 37, the GMO labeling initiative in California, failed in November, to realize that another loss, though unlikely, would only strengthen consumers’ resolve. Since Prop 37 failed, more than 30 states have launched their own GMO labeling law campaigns. Vermont, Connecticut, and Washington already have bills making their way through their respective houses and senates. That doesn’t look like a “negative precedent.” It looks more like Monsanto threw down the gauntlet, and the public is responding aggressively.

That this otherwise progressive governor does not know at this late date that the FDA has never done any human, animal or environmental health and safety studies on GMO food, milk or seed is embarrassing. All the existing U.S. studies concerning health, safety and the environment were done by the corporations producing and selling the products. These corporations - Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, DuPont, Bayer and a few others - have outright refused to let independent researchers in the U.S. buy their seed for health, safety and environmental research studies. The corporations cite patent law in the U.S. to prevent qualified university researchers from conducting tests with GMO seeds.

Fortunately, researchers outside the U.S. are not as restrained by U.S. patent law in their research efforts, although researching genetically modified crops anywhere where problems are found can be - and has been - a career-ending move for some. In spite of Monsanto’s aggressive bullying of researchers, numerous studies have emerged recently which illustrate that there are serious health and safety concerns with GMO foods and animal feed. This is why 61 countries label GMO foods, including China, Russia, and South Africa. If China, where companies added melamine to watered-down baby formulas to fool the inspectors about the protein content, can label genetically modified foods, why can’t Vermont?

It’s time for Governor Shumlin to stop hiding behind a new contrived fear every week and do what 90% of Vermonters want. We want to know if genetically modified ingredients are in our food. Shumlin should do his homework, catch up on the case law that has changed, and the health and safety research that has been done in the 19 years since the rBGH law was passed. Vermont’s Right to Know coalition has implored him to meet with our lawyers and scientists, and he still has not done so. Vermont and national consumers have shown they will not be intimidated by Big Biotech, and have donated the necessary funds to fight Monsanto and their allies in several state legislatures.

More than 400 Vermonters turned out for a hearing on last year’s bill. More than 100 testified in favor of the bill. No one testified against it. Vermonters were waving their checkbooks and $20-bills at the agricultural committee members vowing that they would support the state in any lawsuit. Please stop letting Monsanto bully the state of Vermont. Stop protecting Monsanto’s ability to deceive consumers.

To express support for Vermont’s struggle, call or write the 
Executive Office of Governor Peter Shumlin: 109 State Street, Pavilion Montpelier, VT 05609. Phone: 802 828-3333.

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