Is Vermont's Governor Surrendering to Monsanto?
Continued from previous page
Monsanto's intimidation tactics appear to have succeeded. However, Vermont voters continue to pressure Governor Shumlin to sit down with his lawyers and the lawyers who drafted Bill H722 to determine, after a careful legal analysis, if he wants to promote the bill or obstruct it.
In support of Vermont farmers and consumers, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has launched its own offensive, in the form of a legal defense fund for Vermont and any other state Monsanto threatens to sue over mandatory GMO labeling laws. The OCA is a nationwide organization of organic farmers and consumers that has fought for consumers' right to know about GMOs for more than a decade. According to Katherine Paul, OCA fundraising coordinator, "Over the past four days we've already received commitments of more than $50,000 to defend Vermont or any other state that passes a GMO labeling bill. The only way to back down a legal bully like Monsanto or the Biotechnology Industry Organization is with a bigger legal stick and the moral high ground. Let's make sure we have both of those."
Fifty countries have passed GMO labeling laws, in large part based upon peer-reviewed studies suggesting that GMO crops and foods are hazardous to animal and human health and the environment. Recent GMO feeding studies have found liver abnormalities in 30.8 percent of the female test animals, kidney abnormalities in 43.5 percent of the male test animals, and a thickening of the stomach lining in almost all the tests. These results and results from numerous other tests were troubling enough for all these other countries to label genetically engineered foods so that there was traceability and so that consumers could make a choice.
Currently in the U.S., consumers are not allowed to choose whether they want to be part of a vast GMO feeding experiment. If they become ill or have an allergic reaction to a food product that has been genetically engineered, they cannot trace it back to the source. Consumers have no way of knowing which foods contain genetically modified ingredients and which do not. Most have no idea that 75 percent or more of non-organic processed foods do contain GMOs. Even fewer understand that thousands of foods labeled or advertised as "natural" or "all natural" contain genetically modified ingredients.
Vermont, perhaps more than any other state, has traditionally done the right thing to protect its citizens and the environment. This time fear of Monsanto and the other gene giants has sapped the courage and commitment of the current Governor and the legislature.
Please call Governor Shumlin (802 828-3333) and tell him to stand up to Monsanto bullying. Tell him to publicly speak out and encourage the House and Senate to speed up the review process, pass the GMO labeling bill, and sign it before the legislative session ends on May 1.
And please support the OCA's "Millions against Monsanto" campaign so that Governor Shumlin and all the other states can feel secure in fighting Monsanto in court. If the Governor and legislators surrender now, they will perpetuate claims that progressive politicians are good at promising change, but lack the backbone to follow through on their rhetoric. If they show real courage and pass H.722, they will send a strong message to Monsanto and Big Biotech that the growing Millions against Monsanto movement will do whatever it takes -- including mounting a legal defense -- to stop the corporate bullying and take back our food supply.
Will Allen is the co-manager of Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, Vermont. He is also the Author of The War on Bugs , a history of farm pesticides and fertilizers since 1810. He is on the policy advisory boards of The Organic Consumers Association and Willing Hands. He has attended all of the agriculture committee hearings on H-722, where the testimony referred to above was delivered.
Ronnie Cummins is the National Director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Millions against Monsanto campaign. He also is a member of the Steering Committee of the California Ballot Initiative to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, and co-author of the book, Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers.