Vermont is poised to become the first state to require food products with genetically engineered ingredients to carry labeling. Is the Green Mountain state the first domino to fall?
I don’t want to sound like some smug parent when their kid — against all manner of advice — goes ahead and does something totally dumb that results in disaster.
But I told you so.
As Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin anticipates signing the country’s first bill requiring mandatory labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients, it’s being viewed by many as merely the tip of the iceberg. In fact, Connecticut and Maine enacted legislation last year with “trigger clauses” that require implementation of those two states’ own mandatory GMO labeling rules at a point when more states enact labeling requirements of their own.
“Vermont has fundamentally changed the landscape,” Dave Murphy (no relation), founder of the Iowa-based activist group Food Democracy Now, told The Washington Post. (Murphy likes to point out that he’s been called “The most crucial and politically savvy actor in the ongoing efforts to help move American agriculture into the 21st century” — I guess the 21st century doesn’t include biotechnology).
H. 112, Vermont’s GMO labeling bill, was pushed through the legislature by Vermont Right to Know GMOs, a coalition that included groups such as Rural Vermont, the Northeast Organic Farming Association, Vermont Public Interest Research Group and Cedar Circle Farm (an organic grower and marketer), along with a number of private-sector businesses and non-profits. Obviously, most of those groups stand to profit if consumers are encouraged to avoid “mainstream,” conventional food products because they now labeled as containing genetically engineered ingredients.
So I’m less than swayed by all the cheering from activists over “the public has won the right to know what’s in our food!” rhetoric, since what excites members of Vermont Right to Know GMOs isn’t necessarily principles as much as profits.
But back to the iceberg analogy: Even as organic marketers get set to celebrate in Vermont — current reports have Shumlin set to sign the bill soon — anti-GMO activists elsewhere are pressuring legislatures in more than 20 states to introduce bills similar to H. 112, and various advocacy groups will continue to push ballot measures forward in three more states this election cycle.