GMO Food

Vermont Poised to Become First State to Demand GMO Labeling


Science in action!
credit: rfduck / photo on flickr

Anti-GMO fearmongering may have won the day in Vermont. The state's senate voted 26-2 in favor of legislation demanding labeling of food that contains genetically modified ingredients. The labeling requirement would not go into effect until 2016. The governor has indicated he's likely to sign the bill, according to the Burlington Free Press. From the newspaper:

Many foods, including an estimated 88 percent of the corn crop in the United States, contain ingredients that have plants or animals that were genetically modified, typically to increase disease resistance or extend shelf life. Opponents argue that the process may be harmful to humans. Supporters contend there is no evidence of that. Sixty countries, including the European Union, require labeling.

Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, noted as he introduced the bill on the Senate floor Tuesday that questions remain about the safety of the genetically modified foods because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relies on testing done by the food producers rather than independent sources.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not the sole source of information about genetically modified food, and note the "you can't prove it's not harmful" positioning of the argument. There have been plenty of independent studies showing the lack of evidence of any dangers with genetically modified crops. Making note of the labeling requirement in Europe doesn't counter a report from the European Commission that determined, "The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are no more risky than conventional plant breeding technologies." More recently a study noted the lack of difference between the biochemical makeup of genetically modified and conventionally bred tomatoes, other than the intended changes to the ripening process for the GM version.

The Vermont bill also includes the creation of a fund to pay for the legal bills should food manufacturers sue the state to block it. And they will. The legislation creates significant compliance costs (how appropriate that the Senate worries about being sued but doesn't worry about those affected by the legislation being sued) and is a deliberate effort to scare people against buying certain goods in the absence of any scientific evidence they should be concerned.  

The House version of the bill (pdf) claims that there "is a lack of consensus" regarding the safety of GMOs, which isn't really true, and actually claims the labelling requirement will "create additional market opportunities" for foods that aren't classified as "organic" but nevertheless don't use genetically modified crops. This is outright saying that this law exists partly for the purpose of shifting consumers from one type of product to another. They know full well it will push some people away from these foods. That is the actual intent of the law. Of course they're going to get sued.

The Burlington Free Press story also unfortunately highlights a problematic truth about politics and activism and fearmongering. Few outside business and farming interests directly affected by the law care enough to lobby against these labeling mandates. A couple of senators noted that they had negative opinions about the label mandate, but were inundated with calls and emails from fearful constituents to pass it.

Reason's Science Correspondent Ron Bailey, currently on leave writing a book about, appropriately enough, how science shows life on Earth is getting better, not worse, has written frequently about the anti-scientific opposition to GM foods. Read his February Reason magazine piece about anti-GMO activism in Hawaii here.

NEXT: Elizabeth Nolan Brown on America's Prostitution Precrime Laws

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  1. Why is a law needed? Can’t you slap a “Contains no GMO” label on your product (if true) and then the consumers can intuit that those products without such label do contain GMO? No lawyers, no law suit, no muss and no fuss.

    1. What, and require the anti-gmo crusaders to be burdened with the associated costs? Don’t you understand that they are the good guys? The scarlet letter star of david GMO label should be paid for by those evil companies poisoning our food supply with their poisons , which we can’t quite identify, but WE JUST KNOW THEY’RE IN THERE!

  2. Maize was genetically engineered by Asian invaders of the Western hemisphere. Like insanely so. I say sue the remaining “natives” for restitution.

    1. This is what is so stupid about the whole thing…ALL LIFE IS A GMO! They love darwin but they can’t seem to understand GMOs are life. There has been no adverse effects from GMOs since we have been studying them for over a decade.

      1. It’s only evil when guys in white lab coats, working for corporashunz are doing it, don’t you know.

        1. It could be black guys in red lab coats, you know.

          1. Look, the topic is maize. In its wild form, it’s a little wheatish looking thing. Now it’s a totally swollen and freakishly huge abomination. By far the most radically altered GMO crop we consume. But no one complains about that because “Native Americans” in white labcoats made it and foisted it upon an unsuspecting European population.

            1. Veronica: We want to weaponize a pumpkin.
              Ted: Then so do I. Because?
              Veronica: There’s a country with whom we do business that grows a great deal of pumpkins and would welcome additional uses for them. As well as cheaper ways to kill their enemies.
              Ted: Well, finally the pumpkin gets to do something besides Halloween.
              Veronica: Pie.
              Ted: Halloween and pie

              1. And seeds. I finally risked the insane crowds at our new Trader Joe’s this past weekend, and, among other things, I acquired some pumpkin seeds. First time I’ve ever bought any that were palatable (we usually just make them ourselves during pumpkin season).

                I also got some horseradish hummus–yum.

              2. What a great show that was. I’m crushed that it didn’t survive. And Portia de Rossi was hot in it.

              3. +1 Better Off Ted

        2. exactly

      2. For a lot of people, there isn’t so much of a love of Darwin as there is a love of smug superiority over those stupid Bible hugging Christians

      3. They don’t love Darwin. They’ve never loved Darwin. Their only use for Darwin is proof of their intellectual superiority over those bitter clingers. Just look at the “Social Darwinism” epithet.

        They despise Darwin because evolution is uncontrolled change. The Left is just as conservative as those they ridicule. For the most part they want stasis. They want guaranteed pensions. They want trade barriers. They want all private economic activity tightly regulated by a fresh round a J. Edgar’s. They want all education and all thought coordinated and approved by the state. Really the only change they do approve of involves genitals, and that only if no money is involved.

  3. I heard an interview on VPR that I am pretty sure was with David Zuckerman. Someone brought up voluntary “GMO free” labeling. I don’t remember Zuckerman’s exact response, but it was something about it being unfair for people who are anti-GMO to have to pay a premium for it. So that tells you about all you need to know about him.

    1. I think GMO is the DDT of our generation. Millions of people will die if they are outlawed but lefties will feel good about themselves so we all good. Just like the DDT ban.

  4. Every crop we have today is the product of thousands of years of “genetic modification” through artificial selection. Only a society with vast surpluses of food could afford to be this picky about what they eat.

    1. EXACTLY!!! It’s so simple to understand, yet the “reality based community” can’t even connect those fucking dots.

  5. Seeing the things that came crawling out to protest Vermont Yankee this doesn’t surprise me. Vermont is quickly turning into a socialist state in a lot of regards.

    Now, Vermont Yankee has been shuttered. The plant had another 20 years left (at least) and now the entire asset will become useless. Sad to see that happen to something with so much value left in it so that wind farms can continue to get first to market rights.

    1. Im guessin’ they’re completely oblivious to the fact that wind and solar markets have collapsed completely in Europe?

      1. Europe just didn’t have the right politicians funneling funds to the right cronies.

        It’s sort of like if you use the collapse of the USSR to prove that communism doesn’t work.

        What you don’t understand is, we have the right people this time.

        1. classical definition of insanity…

    2. I get so infuriated whenever I hear their governor talk about VT Yankee. He openly stated that his goal was to force them to close. Now that they have, the issue is that they aren’t shutting down fast enough. Meanwhile, development projects in that area continue to be rejected and politicians complain about the effects of energy prices on the poor.

      1. if we could tax lefty cognitive dissonance, we could pay down the debt

        1. I think this is actually how they eliminated currency in Star Trek. The overwhelming supply of CD completely devalues all notion of monetary exchange.

    3. “Vermont is quickly turning into a socialist state in a lot of regards.”

      Turning into?

      It wasn’t already?

      I mean, Bernie Sanders, for the love of God.

      1. They are still good on gun laws.

        1. Why is that? It always seemed so, um, incongruous to me.

          1. Outside of Burlington and maybe Rutland, it’s a pretty rural state with a strong hunting culture.

          2. Vermont is an odd state. The most politically active people aren’t really from Vermont (at least not in the way “real” Vermonters see being “from Vermont”), they are carpetbagging ultra-lefties from the various shitholes they created in Massachusetts and New York. It began with the hippy/flower child invasion in the early ’70s. Native Vermonters are a pretty libertarian bunch culturally, real live and let live sort of place, so they didn’t mind the hippy pot heads and communes coming up there.

            Pretty soon the demographics shifted and Vermont went off the deep-end of progtardia, but the third rail of Vermont politics (the only third rail, BTW) is gun control. Those live and let live rural Vermonters are inveterate gun nuts and hunters almost to man and the political machine knows that pissing those people off would get real ugly.

            The fact that Vermont has nearly zero violent crime also helps. No pile of dead babies to stand on and rally the troops.

    4. Quickly?

      It is.

    5. See? That just proves that nuclear is uneconomical.

    6. …not to mention that those Vermonters certainly won’t want to see ANY increases in THEIR electric bills as a result of shutting down the nuke.

      Should we start a contest or poll to guess whom they will try to stick the bill to?

  6. The state’s senate voted 26-2 in favor of legislation demanding labeling of food that contains genetically modified ingredients.


  7. I predict a big decrease in food choices for Vermont consumers. We are talking about a state of 626,000 people. Of course that is probably what the laws supporters really want.

    1. Who needs choices when you have TOP.MEN. making all the right choices? Besides anyone who disagrees with them is probably lost in their false consciousness anyway.

      1. Vermont will have to rely on money from people retiring there to survive at this rate.

        I remember the debates about VT. Yankee. Its days were numbered just by listening to the power of derp rising against it.

    2. datcv… I think the real joke will come when Vermonters discover that virtually every food they can buy will have the “contains GMO” label.

      If I were lobbying in Vermont, I’d suggest that the label, like so many other food products, include the caveat, “this product MAY contain GMO items or might have been manufactured or packaged with equipment which may have been in contact with GMO food.”

      Sort of like the “contains material found to be possibly carcinogenic by some loon in California” label.

  8. The House version of the bill (pdf) claims that there “is a lack of consensus” regarding the safety of GMOs

    Wait a minute here…

    So, when it’s global warming, there is a consensus and that means that global warming is real. But when it’s GMO, there is not a consensus and that means that it’s true that GMOs are bad.

    I haz a confuse.

    1. How long have you had a problem with embracing narrative science?

      1. I so hate politics. It corrupts and ruins everything.

        1. There should be some kind of objective test for politicians. Like, seeing if they weigh the same as a duck.

          1. Politicians have harmed us far more than any witches.

            1. Please, can we bring back the Ducking Stool Test and use it on politicians?

    2. I was going to raise this point. I hate the way leftists claim to be “pro-science,” and then pick and choose which science they want to pay attention to.

      1. Politicized science is far worse than useless. Look at what the Nazis and Soviets did with “science.” Heck, we’ve had some atrocities of our own in this country in the name of politicized science.

  9. Does labeling actually work? I mean I remember when they forced McDonalds to put their ingredients on the box…YEARS AGO! I still haven’t read the fucking thing.

  10. When I hear about this sort of stuff, I think back to that rant that Agent Smith goes on in the Matrix about human beings being a disease. I think a lot of environmentalists think that way. They look at other organisms and think they live in harmony with nature, and then they look at humans and it grosses them out.

    Here is what they don’t understand. No other animal on the planet gives a fuck about nature, or harmony, and nature doesn’t give a fuck about them because nature doesn’t have feelings–it’s just a set of circumstances. Most organisms only seem to live in balance with their environment because they suck at keeping themselves alive. One look at a field of kudzu or a river full of Asian carp will tell you all you need to know about natural balance in the absence of predation.

    Insofar as natural harmony exists, it is forced. And every organism on the planet is inclined to fuck that balance up as soon as the opportunity arises. The obsession with things being “natural” and not defiled by the hand of human beings is built upon a fairy tale. Ironically, the only reason anyone buys is it is because human ingenuity hides the brutality of nature so effectively.

    1. it’s not so much that they love nature as much as they hate civilizational progress.Yes, yes they call themselves progressive, but the truth is real progress would simply to disruptive and chaotic that they wouldn’t be able to control it in anyway. I wrote about gnosticism in the other thread, but the same reasoning applies here.

      1. I also think it is a lot of nostalgia for living the “simple life” that none of them have ever lived and experienced. They think life is just as easy without plentiful electricity, clean drinking water at the tap, and grocery stores full of food. They are morons who think everything we have is magic and that without our technology we can somehow sustain this level of comfort.

        They are, in a way, suicidal.

        1. It’s the inspiration for the song ‘Going to the country.’

          Vermont is the agrarian poor with only 626 000 people so it’s not surprising communistic-feely crap has taken over.

          Am 620 has a conservative morning radio show and I often wonder who is listening – besides me of course.

        2. I’ve been watching Ken Burn’s “The National Parks”. A lot of the guests talk about the spiritual connection people feel in the outdoors. I totally understand that and feel the same way. The thing is, I realize I can feel that way because after I’m done traipsing around the woods, sleeping in a tent for a week, I can come back to readily available food and a warm bed. If I had to find all my food for myself, those mountains wouldn’t seem nearly as beautiful. For some reason, environmentalists don’t grok that the only thing allowing them to appreciate the beauty of nature is that which they seem so intent on destroying.

  11. These people will not stop until they drive all GMO foods off the market, and indeed, ban all genetic engineering, period.
    This isn’t about food safety. It’s a crusade to destroy a technology.

    1. “We did it! We finally rid the planet of GMOs! We’re heroes!”

      “Now we’ll have the time we need to deal with those pesky famines that suddenly appeared!”

      1. It all started when the cyanobacteria started polluting Earth’s atmosphere with the deadly and highly corrosive pollutant known as oxygen. It’s been downhill ever since.

        Return Earth to its rightful anaerobic owners!

      2. I watched a documentary the other day called “Pandora’s Promise”. It is basically about a bunch of greens who saw the light and realized nuclear power is the only way to combat global warming. Now, I don’t agree with their apocalyptic predictions regarding global warming, but one of them had a few good lines.

        Basically, he said the environmentalists of today were idiots and everything they were doing would have no positive movement towards their goals because people aren’t going to pay more for worst power. He said they only way to sway people was to provide them an option that is truly better than the ones that are causing global warming and so he realized that nuclear power was that option. He researched it and realized that he had been lied to all his life about the dangers of nuclear power and that death tolls of TMI and Chernobyl.

        I don’t agree with him on global warming, but I respected his realistic view of how to accomplish real reduction in CO2. If more greenies were like him I could actually have a conversation with them and maybe work with them to accomplish things.

        1. Here’s the thing–I have no objection to reducing man-made CO2 emissions. Go right ahead. But don’t destroy our economy to do it unless you can prove beyond any reasonable doubt that we’re all gonna die if we don’t do it.

          1. Have you been listening ProL? They have computer models and stuff, that say we’re all gonna die!

            What more proof do you need?

            1. Look, I said they can reduce CO2 emissions. I’m giving my authorization! Reduce! Fuck, what more can they possibly want?

            2. Real empirical data? I know, I know. Models.

          2. I feel the exact same as you.

  12. Yeah, my own doctor – whom I otherwise love as a doctor – and my own wife are now the “GMO’s are teh sux!” bandwagon.

    I’ve elected to just ignore it all. If I don’t bring it up, it doesn’t get brought up, and then Almanian isn’t forced to choke a bitch….

    Better for everyone.

  13. How many people actually live in Vermont? If I were a food company exec, I might just consider pulling out of the state rather than introduce lots of extra compliance costs.

    1. I thought of this, too. Or, at least a few weeks or months of empty shelves of some products to make a point.

      1. Eh, most businesses don’t want to make political points. But if they have to re-label all the food they sell in a nation of 300M+ people to satisfy the demands of a rinky dink state with a few hundred thousand potential customers, it’s easy to see how the added costs would swamp the lost profit. If they can easily separate the food that goes to Vermont from the rest, then maybe it’s not such a big deal, but I bet most food companies don’t maintain separate production facilities just to support Vermont.

        1. California only gets away with all of its ridiculous and expensive consumer “protection” regulations because of its large population.

    2. 626,630

      The only state with less people is Wyoming. Heck, DC has more people living in it than Vermont.

      1. And yet they get two senators…

        1. Hey, if the alternative is direct representation, I’ll take a screwdriver in the gears.

  14. FYI

    “NO GMO” on an electrical box = No Grounding Mount Outlet.

    1. GMO labeling I can agree with!

  15. Dude, that dont make a whole lot of sense to me man.

  16. Hard to believe we haven’t gotten one luddite; here’s the key words:

    GM Food
    Food Labeling
    Food Policy
    Food Police

    1. I’m a luddite! I oppose open borders.

      So here’s what we can do…

      Don’t deport the brown south-of-border immigrants who enter the country illegally. Send them directly to 95% white Vermont. Vermont will need the extra labor to run a 19th century economy.

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