Sanders Vows to Defend Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law

MONTPELIER, Vt., July 1 – Speaking from the steps of the Vermont Statehouse, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders thanked Vermonters for standing up to powerful special interests and vowed to do everything in his power to defend Vermont’s first-in-the-nation law to label genetically modified food.

“As a Vermonter, I am very proud that our state became the first state in the country to mandate labeling for food that contains GMO products. I am proud of the grassroots activism that led to that legislation and proud of the support that the Legislature and Gov. Shumlin gave to that legislation. Your efforts show what happens when democracy works,” Sanders said.

The Vermont measure, which went into effect today, is being threatened by legislation in the U.S. Senate, introduced by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), that would create a confusing, misleading and unenforceable national standard for labeling genetically modified food.

Instead of a uniform labeling standard like Vermont’s law, Stabenow and Roberts’ bill creates a confusing standard that allows text, symbols or an electronic QR code to be used. The bill also contains huge loopholes in the labeling requirement. And it imposes no penalties whatsoever for violating the labeling requirement.

The major agribusiness and biotech companies “do not believe people have a right to know what's in the food they eat,” Sanders said. “That is why they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions to overturn the GMO right-to-know legislation that states have already passed and that many other states are in the verge of passing.”

The Environmental Working Group has calculated that food and biotech companies and trade associations have spent nearly $200 million to oppose state GMO labeling ballot initiatives. Since 2015, the food lobby has spent $101 million to avert genetically modified food labeling laws and other measures. Agricultural companies have made $226 million in campaign contributions, in the last three election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

“If we don’t stop them” from passing Stabenow and Roberts’ legislation in the U.S. Senate, “they may just succeed,” Sanders said. “Needless to say I, and the Vermont delegation and many members of Congress will do everything in our power to defeat this terrible bill.” 

For Sanders’ prepared remarks, click here.