Opinion: Vermont should take stand and pass GMO labeling bill

Why do we need to pass a GMO (genetically modified organism) food-labeling bill in Vermont? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that GMO crops should not be considered as different from traditionally bred crops. The FDA has not required independent safety tests of GMO crops to back up these claims. Safety studies in this country are being conducted by the biotech companies that produce the GMO seeds. However, a growing number of internationally published studies indicate that there may be significant health and environmental risks associated with the production and consumption of GMO foods. Here is a link to one European study: http://bit.ly/1dNkqn5.
The main GMO crops grown in the United States are corn, soy, canola, cotton and sugar beets. Over 90 percent of these crops by acreage are now GMO. Other crops that can be GMO include alfalfa, sweet corn, papaya, zucchini and summer squash. GMO salmon has been developed and is on the brink of being approved. Processed food contains GMO ingredients that are not obvious because they are hidden among other ingredients and some are not clearly listed on a label as coming from a certain crop. Most meat, eggs and dairy products also contain GMOs because farm animals are generally raised on soy, corn and alfalfa, unless they are given organic feed.
Biotech companies and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have spent $70 million in the last two years against ballot initiatives for GMO labeling in California and Washington State, which lost by only 51-49 percent in both states. More than 60 countries mandate the labeling of genetically engineered foods. But there is no political will in this country to label GMO foods because of the pressure that politicians are receiving from corporate agribusiness and the GMA. That is why citizens in individual states are working to pass GMO food labeling laws.
In some great news on Jan. 2, General Mills, a member of the GMA and supporter of GMO crops, announced that their signature cereal, Cheerios, is now “not made with genetically modified ingredients.” They have sourced non-GMO corn and sugar for Cheerios. They are not removing GMO ingredients from their other cereals at this time. General Mills stands by its support for GMO ingredients, even though they have made Cheerios non-GMO because they think consumers will embrace it. Citizen lobbying and activism are having an effect in the marketplace.
The Vermont House of Representatives passed the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act in the 2013 legislative session. It is now up to the Vermont Senate to pass this legislation. Citizens in Addison County need to be in touch with their state senators, Claire Ayer and Chris Bray, and let them know why this is so important to pass the legislation this year and why they need to be courageous enough to take a stand against the biotech companies and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Also, there is a GMO labeling lobby day in Montpelier on Thursday, Jan. 16, from noon until 5 p.m. Information can be found at vtrighttoknow.org.
Matthew Ennis
Editor’s note: The letter writer lived in Addison County for 23 years and still has strong ties to the county.

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