Last Friday on the Statehouse lawn, people from all over Vermont gathered to celebrate the effective date of Act 120 – our state’s landmark GMO food labeling law that has, as one headline put it, “brought the food industry to its knees.” The celebration, under a beautiful blue sky, was reminiscent of the May afternoon just over two years ago when, on those same steps, Act 120 was signed into law.
Celebrating Vermont’s bold and courageous action on GMO labeling was not the only thing happening at Friday’s event. Our entire federal delegation – Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch – came to show their support for Vermont’s law and to decry the most recent attempt in Washington to replace Act 120 with a watered down, industry-backed “compromise” proposal.
As of this writing, the U.S. Senate is just hours away from beginning floor debate on a federal proposal that would preempt Vermont’s Act 120 and instead allow food manufacturers to bury product information under QR codes or 1-800 numbers. The proposal, developed by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), includes no penalties for violators and will not require products to be pulled if they are found to be noncompliant. Finally, the proposal narrows the definition of genetic engineering to the point where, by some accounts, almost none of the existing GE products of the market would require a label.
Advocates on both sides of the issue spent the long Holiday weekend drumming up calls to the Senate in favor or against the Roberts-Stabenow proposal. At this point, it remains unclear whether Chairman Roberts will have the 60 votes needed for the measure to pass cloture – a similar measure failed by a margin of 48-49 in March.
Questions? Comments? Email Maddie Monty, NOFA-VT Policy Advisor at [email protected]