Will Vermont Cave to Monsanto or Lead the Way?

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin is hesitating on his support for a bill that would mandate labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Vermont even though 90% of his constituents want it.

Why? Because Monsanto has threatened to sue the state if legislators pass H.722.

The bill is in committee, and unless the Governor forces a vote, it will die there when the legislative session ends in a month.

The governor and legislature say that while they’re in favor of the bill, it wouldn’t hold up to federal legal scrutiny, and they don’t want to spend taxpayer money on legal challenges.

Vermonters response is an offer to raise money for the state’s defense. 

"A bill that once appeared destined to pass on the merits of scientific evidence, overwhelming public support, and support of the majority of Vermont’s progressive legislators, now appears doomed – unless Vermont voters succeed in changing the Governor’s mind," says Will Allen and Ronnie Cummins, in an article on Alternet.

Last week, VTdigger.org reported: "Rachel Lattimore, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who has represented the Biotechnology Industry Association, Monsanto, and other biotechnology companies, told the committee and one of its attorneys that Vermont would face a lawsuit from the industry if it passed this bill."

The Organic Consumers Association has launched a legal defense fund for Vermont and any other state Monsanto threatens to sue over mandatory GMO labeling laws.

In the past few months GMO labeling legislation has been introduced in Washington State, Minnesota, Connecticut and  Hawaii. In each state, the same pattern occurs. 

Legislators are optimistic, the bills seem to move quickly at first, they receive a record breaking amount of public support, and then they stall in committee and never move again, despite unprecedented numbers of calls and emails from citizens to legislators.

A representative in Minnesota told Organic Consumers Union they expected "fallout" for supporting the bill, even though it didn’t pass. In Washington state an unprecedented coalition of anti-GMO wheat farmers and organic consumers were stymied by agriculture committee legislators, who, it turns out, received money from Monsanto.

50 countries have 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. says Alternet.

In the US, people are in the dark about GMOs in their food. They don’t realize that 75%-plus of soy and corn – ingredients found in just about every product – that’s not organic contains GMOs (even with confusing labels like "natural").

If Vermont surrenders, Big Biotech will know they can easily squash these efforts with mere threats. If Vermont shows courage, it will show Monsanto that the times they are a’changin.

Vermont’s Past Experience

"Monsanto has used lawsuits or threats of lawsuits for 20 years to force unlabeled GMOs on the public, and to intimidate farmers into buying their genetically engineered seeds and hormones, says Will Allen.

He says:

When Vermont became the first state in the nation in 1994 to require mandatory labels on milk and dairy products derived from cows injected with the controversial genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone, Monsanto’s minions sued in Federal Court and won on a judge’s decision that dairy corporations have the first amendment "right" to remain silent on whether or not they are injecting their cows with rBGH – even though rBGH has been linked to severe health damage in cows and increased cancer risk for humans, and is banned in much of the industrialized world, including Europe and Canada.

Monsanto wields tremendous influence in Washington, DC and most state capitols. The company’s stranglehold over politicians and regulatory officials is what has prompted activists in California to bypass the legislature and collect 850,000 signatures to place a citizens’ Initiative on the ballot in November 2012. The 2012 California Right to Know Act will force mandatory labeling of GMOs and to ban the routine practice of labeling GMO-tainted food as "natural."

A coalition of nearly 400 businesses and organizations have filed a legal petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require mandatory labeling of GMOs. Last month, the Just Label It campaign delivered over one million comments in support of labeling to the FDA. It hasn’t budged.

In February, over 300,000 people including farmers, seed growers and agricultural organizations lost to Monsanto when a judge dismissed the case.

Read: 8 Ways Monsanto Undermines Sustainable Agriculture:

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Comments on “Will Vermont Cave to Monsanto or Lead the Way?”

  1. CarbonScorn

    As requested in the an email I just received, I will most certainly support the complete boycott of soybean oil and any food product prepared with it to show my support for Governor Shumlin. Go Shumlin, we are all by your side.

  2. Cervantes Excalibur

    I would just like to say that everyone should call the Governor and demand that he extend the legislative session so we can get a vote on this issue.

  3. Kathleen

    Until the politicians show some courage and integrity, we can bankrupt Monsanto and push GMOs out of the food supply by our food choices. Eating 100% organic food is the key.

  4. Chris Holliman

    Why doesn’t some people just go after their license to do business in the state with valid complaints thru adminstrative procedures act, & the FTC, or Department of Commerce?

  5. Luc Cole

    Might I say, eating organic foods is also extremely costly, which most Americans simply cannot afford right now. Also, don’t forget that Monsanto are the same conniving demons who take farm land by cross pollinating their genetically altered crops with those of local farmers. So no, we aren’t going to undercut Monsanto with a hippy boycott movement: the only way to get rid of them is to uproot them legally.

    Also, am I the only one wondering why it is that we can mandate that cigarette packs feature warning labels, while the rest of the agricultural industry is somehow exempt from this?

  6. Sarah

    Vermont, I’m rooting for you. I think the governor could pave the way for other states to demand GMO labeling if he can muster up the courage to face down the Goliath that has been bullying everyone. Shumlin might just have the right stone and the right aim to bring down this monster. DO IT! If they try to sue the state, everyone in Vermont should show up at the Monsanto headquarters with GMO tomatoes and vegetables and throw them at their building saying WE DON’T WANT YOUR GMO’S! WE WANT, SAFE, ORGANIC FOOD.

  7. Carol

    Don’t forget that Obama appointed the VP of Monsanto to head the FDA. Michael Taylor is a former top executive, lawyer and lobbyist with biotech giant Monsanto Co. He has rotated in and out of law firms, Monsanto, the USDA and FDA.


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