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(ANTIMEDIA) On May 8, Vermont became the first state to pass a law requiring genetically-modified (GM) foods to be labeled. Monsanto, along with the biggest food lobby in the world, responded by filing suit, claiming the new law violates the companies’ right to free speech. Image credit
In a statement, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) complained: “Act 120 imposes burdensome new speech requirements — and restrictions — that will affect, by Vermont’s count, eight out of every ten foods at the grocery store.” They went on to assert that the sole authority in the country over food safety and labeling requirements is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Falko Schilling, consumer protection advocate with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, opined: “The people of Vermont have said loud and clear they have a right to know what is in their food… so putting labels on is a reasonable and prudent thing so people can decide for themselves.”
In an email from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), National Director Ronnie Cummins praised the new law, stating: “After years of good old-fashioned work, and playing by the rules, the grassroots labeling movement achieved its first real victory this year, when Vermont passed the first no-strings-attached law requiring mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).”
Following the news of the lawsuit, Cummins blasted Monsanto and the GMA in an official press release, calling the suit “a desperate attempt to protect corporate shareholder profits at the expense of consumers’ rights and health.”
He added: “More than 60 other countries have either banned GMOs, or require mandatory labeling of foods that contain them. Consumers in the U.S. have every reasonable right to the same information that consumers in other countries have about foods and ingredients that have not been subjected to independent, pre-market safety testing.”
Before Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin even signed Act 120 into law, Monsanto and its usual cohort the GMA threatened to challenge the bill in court. They made good on their threat just a little over a month later.
Big Ag’s move to sue isn’t news to those who’ve been paying attention. In fact, $1.5 million was earmarked in the bill to pay for the imminent legal defense. That may not be enough, however, to go against the big guns at Monsanto and GMA, who spent $22 million alone in the fight against a GMO-labeling initiative that failed in Washington state last year.
The same anti-labeling lobby defeated a similar ballot initiative in California in 2012, despite big name endorsements and donations.
Vermont is the first state to successfully get past the hurdle of simply enacting a law to require labeling. Its fate in court will likely set the precedent for other similar laws in other states.
Currently, 29 states have bills in the works, and Oregon is gearing up for a GMO-labeling initiative that will appear on the ballot this November.
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Emerson Rensink is an Olympia-trans*planted activist, organizer and citizen journalist. He helped organize the global March Against Monsanto in May 2013. In addition to writing for The Anti-Media, Emerson’s work can be found at Center for a Stateless Society. In his free time, Emerson likes to watch depressing documentaries and find funny, pointless things on the Internet.
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