The organic industry’s national campaign to label GMO foods is not a food safety story, but we cover it because what’s on the food label impacts food safety. If we thought the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the world’s major scientific bodies were wrong in their conclusions that there are no differences in the risk profiles of GMO and non-GMO foods, we, too, might support a role for the states in all this. But we don’t. Still, we have this emerging story of Vermont wanting to muck with the food label. Before most legislatures built in their own capacity for doing deep analyses of bills before they’re passed, we used to say that governors were the last line of defense for preventing states from making costly mistakes. Governors always have smart lawyers who know how laws have to be written to stand up and how to avoid getting on the wrong side of federal judges. Not all governors listen to their experts and not all have the guts to veto measures that have passed overwhelmingly. My take is that tiny Vermont has not caught up with the times. It isn’t willing to spend the money on the resources its legislature needs to do the job right. It does not do any significant bill analysis at either the committee level or by a central body as the majority of states now do. For example, take its much-heralded GMO-labeling bill, H. 112. Yes, please take it. It’s a mess of a bill. Or the bill is a mess. I cannot find any independent line-by-line analysis of this 51-page mess. But it’s certain to be signed later this week by former travel agent Pete Shumlin, who is the governor of Vermont. If there is some skilled member of the bar out there who has done the sort of professional analysis that is normally available, please send it to me. I truly would like to see it. I am certain this bill is a mess; I am just trying to figure out how messed up it is. It’s hard to take a bill seriously that starts out with a screed. I am not a lawyer and don’t speak like one on TV, but Section 1 of H. 112 sounds like it was written by someone who might be off their meds. My guess is that this entire section has no impact whatsoever on law, but that the Vermont General Assembly likes to blow political smoke to make up for its inability to do more thorough work. Just stating that there is no consensus on the safety of genetically engineered food does not make it so. Vermont must be a great market for selling tinfoil hats. The Vermont General Assembly did work itself into a froth on this issue, and that means there were no legislative checks. When I began hearing the food folks in Montpelier expressing their fears about “eating GMOs” as if they were added ingredients rather than a process, I knew we were off the races. When reading through this bill, and everybody should take a look at it, one is struck by its twists and turns. So-called “medical food,” as defined somewhere in the federal code, is exempt. Is that the cutout for the supplement section at your friendly “natural” food store? There are many questions like that one. The bill assigns roles to the state attorney general concerning rule-making and whether to exempt the dairy industry is fascinating stuff, and on and on. Before this is over, we’ll probably have hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of state regulations in an attempt to regulate food labels. The bottom line, however, is that letting states make these kinds of decisions is ludicrous. Americans are not going to accept either higher food prices or reduced food choices that the Vermont “mess” would deliver. Of course, it’s not going to happen. Just as California was not allowed to dictate slaughter practices a couple years back, the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution will save Vermonters from their politicians. All the procrastinators do predict a challenge to H. 112 from the Grocery Manufacturers Association and maybe others in federal court, probably before the ink dries on the governor’s signature. We have a forum for working out issues regarding products involved in interstate commerce. It’s called the Congress of the United States. Get used to it. At least the “mess” does not take full effect until July 1, 2016, so Vermonters won’t have to start driving into Boston for groceries right away!