It is not easy to forget the narrow defeat in the California Ballot Initiative last November suffered by those against GM foods for the proposition for mandatory labeling of these genetically manipulated unnatural foods. The tragedy is all the more painful when it is realized that voters who showed support to the extent of 80% during pre-poll surveys were swayed by massive infusion of funds by the GM food lobby to misinform and change the minds of many citizens. The contention of the GM food manufacturers is that genetic engineering does not "substantially" alter the nature of the food which is "practically" identical to the original crop which was manipulated to express or not to express some genes through biotechnological techniques. The very procedure to put to vote such life affecting proposals is not proper as it is the sacred duty of safety and regulatory agencies to take such decisions based on technical data submitted by the industry. Why are these agencies prevaricating is a mystery beyond comprehension by the common man, especially when it is known that more than 64 countries in the world have put in place laws that requires compulsory labeling of GM foods! In a sharp rebuke to the GM food lobby, the tiny state of Vermont in the northern part of the US had the "guts" to pass a law that requires all GM foods to be made and sold in that state to be labeled compulsorily.Here is a take on this encouraging development
"In a major victory for the food movement and consumer advocates, the Vermont House has voted 107-37 in support of legislation that would require foods that are genetically engineered (GE) to be labeled. This is the first-ever State House to pass a bill that would require that all GE foods to be labeled. "This historic vote shows that state legislatures are beginning to step up and support the overwhelming demand from consumers to label GE foods," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. "Consumers nationwide are beginning to ask questions about the growing influence of chemical companies in food production. They are demanding the information necessary to make healthful decisions about the foods they serve to their families. We congratulate Vermont on taking this important step and thank these legislators for standing up to powerful special interest groups." Center for Food Safety (CFS) has been at the center of the fight to inform consumers about GE foods for over a decade. CFS provided legal testimony before the Vermont Legislature in 2005 and has maintained an active presence in the state, providing resources and expert legal and scientific advice to the citizens and lawmakers of Vermont. Sixty-four nations including China, South Africa, and all countries in the European Union currently require GE foods to be labeled. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) last week introduced federal legislation that would require nationwide labeling of GE products. "Even though industry spent $45 million in California to fight Prop 37, the initiative lost by a very narrow margin. Progress on GE food labeling in states such as Vermont shows that the tide is turning. People are demanding their right to know how their food is produced and state legislatures are responding positively," added Rebecca Spector, west coast director of CFS".
What prevented the GM lobby from influencing the law makers is not known but it is reasonable to assume that Vermont being a small market for them they are prepared to sacrifice the business there. Who will be the sufferers if major manufacturers of processed foods start a market choking operation denying the citizens there free flow of foods into the market? Is there an alternative option for the state if no manufacturer is willing to sell any food without GM tainting? In a federal structure it will be difficult for a lone state to impose laws different from that exist in other states. It will be interesting to watch for further development in this war on labeling!