Other states with GMO labeling bills currently pending include Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and California. The ambitions of the biotech haters are only going to be inflamed even more by their success in Vermont.
And according to The Washington Post, when Gov. Shumlin signs the bill into law, the state expects to be sued over it and is ready to fight back. “Legislators, officials and advocates are preparing for it,” the newspaper reported.
Back in April, Vermont state Attorney General Bill Sorrell told Vermont Public Radio he would be “very surprised” if the state isn’t sued when the bill becomes law. In fact, the Post reported that legislators were so convinced there would be a legal challenge that the bill’s language included a $1.5 million legal defense fund, to be paid for with settlements won by the state.
The push for GMO labeling is only going to escalate going forward.
A tenuous tactic
If you’ve skimmed even a couple weeks’ worth of commentaries in this space, you’ve probably read (or maybe deliberately skipped) a column of mine shilling for industry to initiate voluntary GE labeling. I’m all for publishing scientific papers “proving” that genetic engineering of seeds doesn’t endanger public health, and I strongly disagree with the seemingly ubiquitous organic marketing strategies that demonize conventional producers on the basis of their use of GE crops or feed ingredients.
But at the end of the day, hardly anyone is going to be convinced that GMOs are safe and can be consumed without any worries on the basis of some scientific study or a magazine article or even a marketing campaign complete with high-powered ads. That tactic worked in California and Washington when voters in those states rejected ballot measures that would have mandated GMO labeling, but that was because the vote was turned into a pocketbook issue.
Nobody likes voting for anything that’s going to cost them more money. Tapping that resistance may well be enough to continue defeating statewide referenda, but it won’t change people’s belief that genetic engineering is an ill-advised technology and that foods made with ingredients from GE crops are ultimately suspect in terms of their effects on human health.
Unless industry wins the battle over GMO safety, it will find itself endlessly fighting a rear guard action from a defensive posture.
That’s no way to run a railroad. Or a ranch or a food processing business.