Monsanto threatens legal action over Vermont GMO labeling bill

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, April 6, 2012 9:47 EDT
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A scientist gives an injection to an apple. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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If lawmakers in Vermont decide to require all genetically modified food be labeled as such, they could be facing a major lawsuit from one of the most hated companies in the world.

A representative of Missouri-based food giant Monsanto, which has in its history filed hundreds of lawsuits over use of its seed gene patents, threatened lawmakers with civil litigation if they pass the bill, according to a report this week from Alternet.

The bill, H.722, otherwise known as the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, was introduced to the Vermont House in February, but lawmakers have hesitated to cast their ballots ahead of a public hearing on April 12.

It wouldn’t be the first time Monsanto has sued Vermont, either: the company took the state to court in the ninties over a law requiring milk producers to label products containing bovine growth hormones. Not only did they sue, they won, rendering Vermont’s labeling law purely voluntary.

What’s more, Monsanto years later got into a legal fight with Vermont ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. over their practice of labeling ice cream free of hormones and forcing suppliers to promise they’re not using them. Monsanto was able to convince lawmakers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana to consider bills that would have made the ice cream maker’s practices illegal, arguing the labels implied some inherent harm to consuming recombinant bovine growth hormone. Only Pennsylvania passed the law, but it was later recalled.

A ballot initiative in California that is similar to Vermont’s is currently in the signature-gathering stage. Activists hope to push their initiative onto the statewide ballot this year. If it passes, it could have the effect of using California’s massive economic influence — it’s the eighth largest marketplace in the world — to force numerous other companies to label their genetically modified products in other states as well.

The video below is from The GMO Film Project, a documentary highlighting how one man learned about genetically modified plants and their growing reach around the world.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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