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Vermont has signed into law a GMO labeling law, making it the first State to really take the ‘Food Fight’ to whole new level. Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin has made his State the first one to spearhead the legal ‘Food Fight’ going on involving Genetically Modified Organisms. The fight has already covered areas such as whether or not food companies like Monsanto can or cannot patent certain food and crop strains made with GMO’s developed by the company.
The battle has now been raging over whether or not products containing GMO’s should or should not have to notify consumers, via the product label, that it contains GMO’s. Numerous protests and many wars-of-words have been fought concerning the topic, but now one State in the Union has decided to take the fight to a whole new level. One can be sure the the signing of the labeling bill into law by Governor Shumlin is not going to mark the end of the labeling fight. Already, it is expected that corporate representatives will challenge the new landmark legislation. Whether it survives or not, Vermont’s labeling law is a bold step in what has come to be known as a real life ‘Food Fight.”
There has been a significant movement by health conscious consumers to know what exactly is in the food that they are purchasing and eating. With the proliferation of GMO’s, especially over the past decade, consumers have been expressing their desire to know if there are any genetically modified organisms in their food. Citizens of Vermont have apparently placed enough importance on this topic that the State has moved to become the first one to pass unconditional labeling legislation of the type signed into law by Governor Shumlin.
After signing the landmark legislation, Shumlin stated that the message from his constituents was clear, and that the people of Vermont have made it known that they want to know what is in their food. The Governor also stated that, “Vermont gets it right with this bill.” To show that no one is under the false impression that the signing of the bill will in any way end the ‘Food Fights,’ Attorney General Bill Sorrell made it known that he expects to be sued by companies like Monsanto. Sorrell said that he would be surprised if corporations like Monsanto don’t try to challenge the legislation claiming some kind of constitutional infringements like compelled speech, or argue that the new law somehow burdens interstate commerce.
In one way or another, the Attorney General expects with little doubt that corporations will raise some kind of constitutional challenge to the new GMO labeling law. A possible reality that might make some question just who the 14th Amendment truly ‘enfranchised.’ In any case, if Sorrell’s suspicions prove to be correct, the ‘Food Fight’ is just warming up with the signing of the new law. Monsanto has not yet made any comment regarding the law, so it is still unclear if Sorrell’s expectations will become a reality or not. With the unconditional labeling law being the first introduced by any State so far however, it would stand to reason that it must overcome still opposition before it is considered “here to stay.”
Some of the arguments in support of the new GMO labeling law are that the people of Vermont simply desire to eat healthy foods and would like to know whether or not there are GMO’s present in what they are eating. Detractors and legal opinions against such an argument focus on the fact that the “scientific community” has not found that GMO’s are harmful when consumed by humans, and that until it can be proved otherwise there shouldn’t be a law mandating the labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms.
The war over the safety of GMO’s has been raging for quite some time now. Corporations like Monsanto, which is one of the largest producers of foods containing GMO’s, argue that genetically modified organisms are safe and sound. Some farming and health focused groups, concerned about sustainable farming and clean foods, argue that the long-term effects of GMO’s simply are not yet known. The groups suggest that the relative newness of GMO’s is is why there is not a large body of evidence showing how harmful they are. The argument makes one remember products like Asbestos which were once used heavily, until (once it was too late for many) it was discovered that they may pose serious health risks.
It is clear that the way things are looking at present, companies such as Monsanto have much too much invested in the area of GMO’s to let the new legislation go unchallenged. Although Monsanto has not made any public comments regarding the new law, Sorrell and Vermont expect the new law to face stiff challenges. For this reason the new law included a legal fund, cleverly dubbed the “Food Fight Fund,” which was stocked with $1.5 million to help with legal issues. Sorrell is also formulating defenses for expected challenges to the landmark legislation.
The Attorney General has stated that the Food Fight Fund was set up to help make sure the law gets the best chance at lasting through significant legal challenges, and encouraged people from around the country to do what they could to contribute to the fund. At this point, Vermont has signed the GMO labeling law and the Food Fight is well underway. Only time will tell whether the new law has the support and staying power to make it through significant expected challenges. While Monsanto and friends will certainly not be smiling about the news, ultra-health conscious non-GMO advocates are celebrating a ‘temporary’ victory in the epic ‘Food Fight.’
By Daniel Worku