For immediate release
April 11, 2012
Executive Director, Rural Vermont
David L. Rogers,
Policy Advisor, NOFA Vermont
Consumer Protection Advocate, VPIRG
Phone: 802-223-5221 x.26
Montpelier, VT – In anticipation of the April 12th public hearing concerning the VT Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act (H.722) the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition held a “Unlabeled and Unnatural Buffet” at the Vermont Statehouse today. The coalition used the event to highlight the fact that many products which label themselves as “natural” are produced with genetic engineering.
The prohibition on advertising genetically engineered (GE) food products as “natural” is one of the key components of H.722. The bill would also address consumer concerns by requiring food sold at retail outlets in Vermont to be labeled if it is genetically engineered, or partially produced with genetic engineering. It is estimated that over 70 percent of all packaged food sold in the United States is produced, at least in part, through genetic engineering. Yet consumers have almost no way of knowing with any certainty whether a particular product has been genetically engineered.
NOFA-VT Policy Advisor Dave Rogers discussed the effect that the lack of labeling will have on consumer choices saying, “Right now this is an issue in the center aisles of the supermarket because it is mostly processed and packaged foods that are produced with genetic engineering. This is going to change soon. In the coming years we should expect to see a growing number of genetically engineered meats, fruits, and vegetables such as salmon, eggplant, cucumbers and melons. Once these foods are on the market this will be an issue in the outer isles of the supermarket as well, and consumers have a right to know what they are buying.”
Consumer demand for labeling is driven in part by the growing number of studies that indicate genetically engineered foods may contain novel toxins, allergens, and other substances that can present real risks to our health. Labeling of GE foods will make it possible to identify and track any adverse health reactions that may occur as a result of consuming GE foods.
“H.722 is a simple but powerful bill – it will give all Vermonters the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered” Said Andrea Stander Executive Director of Rural Vermont, “Whether their need to know is based on health concerns such as new allergens, religious beliefs, or concerns for the impacts the production of genetically engineered food crops are having on farmers and the environment, a huge majority of Vermonters are demanding the right to know what’s in their food.”
To highlight the many reasons that genetically engineered foods should be labeled coalition members also revealed a quote from a 1998 advertising campaign run by Monsanto in France after the EU instituted mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food. The quote read: “You have the right to know what you eat, especially when it’s better…After several months of debate, Europe has just adopted a new law for the labeling of food that comes from genetically engineered plants…We believe that products that come from biotechnology are better and that they should to be labeled.”
Falko Schilling, VPIRG Consumer Protection Advocate, commented on the quote saying “I think people will make up their own minds about whether genetically engineered foods are better, but I could not agree more that people have a right to know what they eat, and that genetically engineered food should be labeled.”
Vermont’s efforts have already garnered national attention, and received broad support from organizations and individuals in the state. Over 60 local and national organizations have signed on to the coalition, and over 3,000 Vermonters have signed the coalition’s petition in support of the bill. Due to overwhelming interest, the Agriculture Committee’s April 12th public hearing has already been moved to the House Chambers.
“Lawmakers continue to hear from their constituents that they want to see genetically engineered foods labeled” said Schilling, “We have heard testimony that 96% of Vermonters want to see these foods labeled, and I think that fact is going to be pretty clear when the Agriculture Committee holds their public hearing.”
H.722 is currently in the House Agriculture Committee, and a public hearing on H.722 is scheduled for April 12th at 6:30 in House Chambers of the Vermont State House.