threatened to sue the State of Vermont if it passes legislation requiring labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. Now, despite overwhelming public support and backing from a majority of Vermont's House Agriculture Committee, legislators have put a hold on future voting on the bill.Once again, Big Ag has flexed its intimidating corporate muscle to stop food integrity efforts in their tracks. Biotech giant Monsanto has
Senate President John Campbell had said he would accept the bill from the House Agriculture Committee after the March 16 crossover day deadline. Two weeks later, however, the Agriculture Committee still has not agreed on a draft, and it will be taking further testimony, including at a public hearing on April 12. The bill’s proponents now say the bill needs scrutiny for its constitutional merits by the Judiciary Committee before it gets to the House floor, in light of threats of an industry lawsuit over the bill.
The delay likely means the bill's impending doom as the end of the current legislative session approaches.
Monsanto has used lawsuits or threats of lawsuits for 20 years to force unlabeled genetically engineered foods on the public, and to intimidate farmers into buying their genetically engineered seeds and hormones.
This isn't the first time Monsanto has bullied Vermont in order to defeat "right to know" efforts. In 1994, as the article states, Vermont became the first state in the U.S. to require mandatory labels on milk and dairy products that come from cows injected with rBGH, Monsanto's controversial GE growth hormone. The company fought against the label in federal court and won. Since then, rBGH-free labeling has proved an alternative in many states, but pressure from Monsanto resulted in an FDA disclaimer to be included on the label: "no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBGH-supplemented and non-rBGH-supplemented cows."
Monsanto continued to employ its deep pockets to keep health concerns regarding rBGH non-existent, which included threatening Fox News with legal action in 2001 to prevent the airing of an investigative story on the hormone. It also offered Canadian government scientists more than $1 million as an attempted bribe for the drug's approval, according to Dr. Margaret Hayden – one of three rBGH whistleblowers who was fired (but recently awarded) for refusing to keep quiet regarding concerns about the drugs' safety for humans.
It's no wonder Monsanto has persisted with its intimidation. No one seems to want to go against Monsanto in court, as suggested by stalled or blocked legislation similar to Vermont's in several other states.
Another reason Monsanto opposes Vermont's bill is the fact that it would also prohibit any labeling of GE food as "natural," a routine practice that only further obscures the product's real origin.
Just give it to 'em straight, Monsanto!
Here at FIC, where we protect food whistleblowers, we continue to keep a close eye on Monsanto, a corporation that clearly seeks to combat food transparency efforts. Additional comments on the bill will be taken at a public hearing this Thursday, April 12. Hopefully the cry for transparency will ultimately prevail over industry bank.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.