Entirely as expected, four national trade associations have filed suit challenging Vermont’s just-enacted law requiring the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Their arguments were predictable as well — GMOs pose no dangers, the law will economically disadvantage GMO producers, it violates interstate commerce protections, it will be costly to consumers, and it can’t even be complied with due to a shortage of GMO-free ingredients. (There’s not enough space this humble blog snippet to demolish all of these claims as they deserve, but we can’t resist making the point that those last two claims would only even begin to make sense if the law required producers to switch to GMO-free ingredients. Which it doesn’t.)
The suing parties are the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell estimates that the state will need between $1 million and $5 million to fight the lawsuit. State appropriation and settlement surpluses will seed a defense fund to the tune of $1.5 million, and private donations are being accepted at Foodfightfundvt.org. So far, $18,000 has been raised.
In a grounded and thoughtful blog piece, Vermont Digger’s political columnist Jon Margolis examines overblown claims on both sides of the GMO debate regarding food safety, agricultural yield, and the net environmental impact of growing GMO crops. Pointing out the limitations of the bill (most glaringly, it does not cover meat or dairy), he asks, why are its supporters are so passionate?
Consider the possibility that opposition to GMOs is not just opposition to GMOs, but is part of a broader reaction against what is happening to farms and to food….
The farmer who contracts with Monsanto to use its Roundup herbicide also agrees to buy all seeds for his new crop from the company, making him less an independent operative than a corporate employee….
[T]he food system has become increasingly mass-produced and standardized, and in the process often both less nourishing and less tasty. To many people, GMOs are part of the general “industrialization” of the food supply – the growth of processed foods, so many of them chock-full of the fats, sugars, and salts that help explain why so many Americans are overweight or even obese; the spread of fast-food chains which promote “supersized” fatty (and mostly dull) sandwiches and sugared drinks….
Were GMOs the only sign of the growing corporatization of the food supply, they might not arouse so much concern. But they are not, and so they do.
With organic brands being enthusiastically acquired or developed by all the major food manufacturers, it’s pretty clear that this backlash is understood well enough by industry to be exploited for commercial benefit. (Full disclosure: we’re invested in some of those major food manufacturers.) This is a good thing insofar as (possibly) healthier and more ecologically grown foods are now on supermarket shelves. Now these companies need to need to stop undermining the value of their organic and GMO-free product lines by fighting the very labeling that would enhance demand for them. Is that so much to ask?
Source: The Vermont Digger
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