U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) may want to send some thank-you letters out to state legislative leaders who shut down efforts to get in his way this year. Pompeo is the GOP’s point man in Congress on federal policy to preempt the states from writing their own laws requiring the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This legislative season appears to be ending without another state willing to join Vermont in requiring that GMO food be labeled. State legislatures are adjourned in Hawaii, Alaska, the entire Western region except for the three Pacific Coast states, the Midwest, the South except for the Carolinas, and the Border States. The North and Northeast states bordering Canada also remain in session, along with Illinois, which is holding a special special session looking to close a $3-billion budget gap by July 1. vermontstatehouse_406x250The fact that GMO-labeling bills were introduced but mostly failed to go anywhere gives Congress more time to work on the issue before the food industry is confronted with a maze of state, territorial, and federal labeling rules. Vermont’s law requiring labels on GMO foods passed last year, but it does not take effect until July 2016. Federal courts are allowing it to go forward, but a few issues remain unresolved. Maine and Connecticut also passed GMO-labeling laws, but those are contingent upon bordering states taking the same approach before they would trigger enforcement. And, according to the Center for Food Safety, North Dakota and Michigan have adopted state laws opposing the labeling of GMO foods. Where the 2015 legislative season is not entirely over, the attention of lawmakers is pretty much down to adopting budgets for the new fiscal year. Illinois and Massachusetts are two such examples, and both had GMO-labeling bills on their dockets. In Illinois, the Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act was allowed to die in the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee on May 31 for lack of a third-reading vote. Labeling GMO food would have been required in the Land of Lincoln beginning on Jan. 1, 2017, had the bill passed and been signed into law. Massachusetts, which just adopted a temporary budget for the first two weeks of July to cover if the state doesn’t have a permanent fiscal plan in place, has seen no formal legislative action on its proposed GE food labeling law since it was assigned to committees in January. Its potential demise if lawmakers do get their budget work done and adjourn is puzzling because advocates claim to have endorsements for the proposed measure from 154 of 200 legislators, including 125 of the 160 representatives and 29 of the 40 senators. Most state GMO-labeling bills did not get far in 2015. Hawaii was an exception. Its Food Labeling Law was assigned to four Senate committees and actually won recommendations from two (Agriculture and Health), where it generated almost 600 pages of comments from government agencies and the public. However, the bill was finally opposed by the Hawaii Departments of Health and Agriculture and died in the Commerce and Ways and Means committees. The health department said it would have to hire “numerous experts in the field of biotechnology and genetics as well as multi-million analytical equipment currently not available at DOH. Additional enforcement staff would also be required.” “The department does not object in principle to a labeling policy to enhance public awareness of the absence or presence of genetically engineered food or food ingredients in Hawaii markets,” Dr. Virginia Pressler, state health director, said in prepared testimony last Feb. 19. “However, the department is not in a position to enforce such legislation because practical and legally defensible analytical methods to detect any and all genetic modification do not exist.” She also noted that, “Currently, there is no conclusive scientific evidence of negative health effects associated with consumption of genetically engineered food or food products as determine by the U.S. Food and Drug Association.” Instead, Pressler said the department “would like to focus its limited resources in areas such as controlling the incidence of foodborne illness risk factors by inspecting food establishments at the appropriate frequency.” After her testimony, support for GMO labeling receded in the Hawaii Legislature. In other states, GMO-labeling laws went down quicker. State Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) introduced a couple of bills regulating genetically engineered food in the GOP-controlled Indiana Senate and did not get further than a committee assignment. Six Democrats in the Arizona House introduced a GMO-labeling bill only to see it parked in the Rules Committee for the entire session. A couple of bills to free Connecticut’s GMO policy from its current status of being contingent on surrounding states also went nowhere after being assigned to the Joint Committee on Environment. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees were the killing grounds for two proposed GMO-labeling laws in Florida. While few state lawmakers do much reporting back to their constituents when their bills fail, Florida Democratic State Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda is an exception. The Tallahassee attorney and college professor sponsored the Florida GMO bill in the House as one of her “15 for 2015,” about which she mostly had to report, “This bill was not heard in any committees.” A GMO-labeling bill in Iowa also died quickly. Alaska’s got no further than an assignment to the House Natural Resources Committee. Anchorage Democrat Geran Tarr was the sponsor. She said the measure was needed to give Alaskans their right to know and to save the Chinook salmon. All in all, the 2015 legislative season provided little evidence that the states are rushing to jump ahead of Uncle Sam when it comes to GMO-labeling legislation. A number of bills that were advanced had start dates after July 1, 2016, showing some awareness that even the sponsors may think it’s a wise move to let Vermont go first. The bottom line is that for the rest of this year, most attention on the issue will be focused back in the nation’s capital on Pompeo’s H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. That bill would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set standards for companies that want to label food products as containing or not containing GMOs and would preempt state action on the issue.

  • Kānāwai Māmalahoe

    We now live in the time described in the book 1984, where everything is named as the opposite of what it actually is… A bill Denying Americans the Right to Know what’s in our food and Denying farmers our right to grow without being contaminated by the transgenic creations of chemical corporations with atrocious records…is being called The Safe and Acurate Food labeling Act…quite a DARK Act. This should be called the avoid indepent tests on GMOs in Maui Act…In a time of universal deceit…telling the truth is a revolutionary act…

  • Dylan

    I’m preparing to move to Vermont. Already I have some cross country skis and the prescribed hat to wear when being seen roaming farmers markets. When the financing comes through I will have the Subaru and then I just need to get the hemp seat covers for it. I’ve been working on perfecting my orthorexia and my proselytizing snobby know-it-all stick-in-the-butt attitude. I’ve always hated progress and technology, at least for other people to have, so I’m way ahead of the game there. Can’t wait to get to Vermont among my peeps and start living local off the fat of the land. Word!

    • rel0627

      They dont say “word” after a rant.

  • I would say the primary reason the GMO laws didn’t go anywhere, is because most states are waiting to see what happens with the Vermont GMO lawsuit.

    And I wonder how politicians who scream about “states rights” will justify their abrogating states rights at the behest of powerful agribusiness interests–especially in favor of preventing consumers from having a better understanding of what goes into the food they eat.

    • Hillary

      GMO labeling is in no way intended to assure consumers enjoy a better understanding of anything. Indeed, it is intended specifically to confuse, flim-flam and frighten consumers into misunderstanding modern technology and believing your hateful Luddite propaganda. Do yo really think legislators and consumers fail to sense your sneaky slimy maneuvering. It stinks to high heaven and makes the ears ring. We can’t possibly miss your deception.

      • Cletus DeBunkerman

        You sure have swallowed the corrupt GMO pesticide industry disinformation echo chamber spin hook line and sinker.

        You comment is one big lie.

      • Debbie Owen

        There is no excuse for keeping consumers in the dark about the food they pay for and feed to their families.

        • MmmBeer

          Labeling does not enlighten consumers unless they have a basic understanding of what the label means. Look at Cletus’ comment below – not a hint of understanding and a whole lot of one-sided bias.

          Fact is that 90% of corn in the US is GM, and we have been eating it and its byproducts for decades. 70% of US corn is exported, so the rest of the world has been eating it and its byproducts for decades. Since nearly everything these days has corn or HFCS in it, expect that you are and have been eating GM crops for many many years, perhaps your entire life. No labeling needed for that, since there is no difference in the final food product.

      • “hateful Luddite propaganda…”

        So, rather than companies take the opportunity to embrace the GMO disclosure, seeing this as an opportunity to educate people if that’s all that’s necessary, those of us who want this disclosure (and hence provide additional information to people), are Luddites.

        Sneaky, slimy?

        Thank you for giving additional credibility to my comment.

        • Sally

          I think she meant sneaky and slimy like when a state legislature is having to deal with out of state lobbyists and out of state supporters who make campaign donations and stuff to some of the other state legislators. You know, to find a legislator to sponsor the anti-GMO bill, to help write it, to apply the pressure and get the messaging out. The anti-GMO crusade is just like the raw milk legalization crusade in that way. If you would look at that you will see all the similarities. If my state legislators’ time is being wasted like this I think it is sneaky and pretty slimy. That’s all I think she was getting at. I don’t think she was calling you sneaky.

          • Last time I looked, large agribusiness interests hold inordinate sway in state legislatures, and they don’t like GMO bans. I’m not sure where you got the impression those who are for GMO labeling are rolling in the dough, because in the last few elections on the topic, the anti-labeling campaigns had hundreds of times more money to spend.

            And don’t equate being for raw milk is the same as being for GMO labeling. I’m virulently against raw milk, but am for GMO labeling.

            So if there’s anything “sneaky and slimey”, perhaps it’s more in people’s muddied thinking, and even muddier commenting skills, than anything else.

    • Ralph G.

      Well the “states rights” angle isn’t working in your favor so far, thank God. If popularity for GMO labeling truly was as uniform as lying anti-GMO fraudsters always claim, well, there would be thoroughgoing legislation in place in many states, wouldn’t there? And none of the wussy wishy-washy skulking “we will when our neighboring states do” rhetoric. Instead this uncomfortable 10 ring clown circus is what results when lawmakers are bamboozled and being coerced to consider bills with no purpose, no merit and no popular support. Everyone stands around looking quizzically at each other too proud to ask the obvious question — ‘what the hell are we being asked to do, by whom and why?’. Best to get this sad performance over with at the Federal level and free up states to get back to meaningful governance. Anti-GMO cranks will soon enough find some other preposterous triviality to swoon over. Any one imaginary crisis is as good as the next for these pathetic conniving drama queens.

      • I’m trying to find the meat of your comment in all of your hyperbole.

  • mem_somerville

    It’s getting easier to point to all the failures of the laws in the voting booths, actually. When legislators realize that the support for this maybe noisy but is thinner than they were led to believe, some of them grab a clue.

  • Ken Gallaher

    Imagine a company selling poisoned product and trying to hide it….and spending millions of dollars to do it.
    It’s not complicated – one label for 50 states (It’s done all the time) and NO GMO.
    If your crap has GMOs and you don’t want to admit it – Vermonters will not miss it.

    • Jeff Leonard

      Did you miss the part from the state health director from Hawaii where she said ““However, the department is not in a position to enforce such legislation because practical and legally defensible analytical methods to detect any and all genetic modification do not exist.” In other words, there is no analytical equipment capable of detecting any difference because there isn’t any difference.

      • Kānāwai Māmalahoe

        Wrong she is saying that the Hawaii Department of Health does not have the PCR testing laboratory equipment to perform the tests as they don’t even inspect restaurants for food safety violations. She supports GMO labeling and knows it doesn’t need to be tested by the department. The labeling law was widely supported it was only killed by the power of a Hilo representative who headed the committee and had the sole decision making power not to call the bill. He will not be reelected and was only appointed at the last minute so ran unopposed.

        Hawaii consumers like the rest of the country routinely poll above 90% wanting labels and tests for GMO. The ridiculous thing is the argument against state labeling laws all said a federal label would be created.

        Monsanto spent over 8 million in propaganda to lie…Maui voted for independent tests and won with less than 65k and the truth. We see the impacts four times faster here at GMO ground zero.

        • MmmBeer

          Are you sure about that?

          http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/05/us/on-hawaii-a-lonely-quest-for-facts-about-gmos.html?_r=0

          “Urged on by Margaret Wille, the ban’s sponsor, who spoke passionately of the need to “act before it’s too late,” the Council declined to form a task force to look into such questions before its November vote. But Mr. Ilagan, 27, sought answers on his own. In the process, he found himself, like so many public and business leaders worldwide, wrestling with a subject in which popular beliefs often do not reflect scientific evidence.”

          Here’s another excerpt from the Hawaii papaya growers point of view:

          “The papaya farmers appeared, pacing restlessly, outside Mr. Ilagan’s office shortly after Ms. Wille introduced the proposal for a G.M.O. ban in May.

          There were only around 200 of them on an island with a population of about 185,000, but many lived in his district. They wanted to be sure he understood that genetically modified papayas, the only commercially grown G.M.O. fruit in the United States, account for three-quarters of the 30 million pounds harvested annually here.”

          Bottom line – the science does not support your stance. The farmers do not support your stance. Only those who misunderstand the biology and/or are fearful of corporate tactics support this ban. It has nothing to do with health or safety, and everything to do with ignorance and fear.

          • Kānāwai Māmalahoe

            You are talking about the Hawaii County Ban on GMO, I am talking about the Maui County Vote for a Moratorium on GMO until Independent Tests are Conducted! Hawaii has the most new open air experiments producing the majority of all new GMO seeds for the world.

            We have voted against them in all three counties. The transgenic papaya price is 30-40 percent below the production costs, it is only still around due to the government subsidized insurance payouts.

            Our best years in price and production were before transgenic papaya which killed export markets and forced over half of the original farmers to switch to more viable products. Maui doesn’t have any GMO Papaya, and non-Gmo papaya are the only ones profitable without subsidies.

        • Jeff Leonard

          Wrong. PCR machines are cheap but they only detect DNA. No DNA in refined sugar and oil, the GMO and non-GMO products are identical except to those of you with magical thinking.

          • Kānāwai Māmalahoe

            The state DOH does not have the 90k to 250k for a PCR machine or the staff and lab peripherals to run it. We don’t need a lab to enact a GMO labeling bill as the producers can track it to the soy used to produce the highly processed product.

          • Michael McCarthy

            How would a PCR machine allow you to run DNA proliferation on items that contain no DNA (e.g. Soy oil)?

          • Kānāwai Māmalahoe

            Are you agreeing with my previous point that we don’t need a PCR machine, because I never said we needed one. DOH can’t afford it and it’s not necessary to enact a labeling law as a farmer I know if my soy is GMO and buyers who create highly refined partially hydrogenated soy oil know if the beans were GMO or not…the beans could always be tested but it’s not necessary.

          • Michael McCarthy

            I’m sure the University of Hawaii has a PCR machine, but my point was that you could never prove the source of soy oil using PCR, so unless you were testing the soy prior to manufacturing anyone could pass off soy oil as GMO free.

          • Jeff Leonard

            You are pointedly ignorant. A thermocycler can be had for ~$5K and the state of Hawaii has plenty of them (Bet there are a hundred plus machines at UH). More importantly the State of Hawaii Department of Health already has both the equipment and the personnel to do those assays as can be seen here http://health.hawaii.gov/statelab/test/
            What they don’t have is a machine that can detect the magic beans you are afraid of. For that you need tinfoil!

          • Kānāwai Māmalahoe

            Wrong. Didn’t you read the article…”The health department said it would have to hire “numerous experts in the field of biotechnology and genetics as well as multi-million analytical equipment currently not available at DOH.”

            Ultra-processed junk food like HFCS and hydrogenated oil don’t contain DNA so can’t be tested; however, the soy beans not already tested and approved as GMO free contain GMO so not rocket science.

    • mem_somerville

      I’m hoping they follow through on the veiled threat to not send food to VT. It will be good for businesses in the nearby states. We’ll take your Doritos dollars!

  • Sally

    Maybe it’s all the out of state lobbyists who are spooking ’em? I mean these state legislature bills aren’t exactly being drafted from scratch by the local yokels. The push and the support comes from outside the state every time. Just like proposed legislation to legalize raw milk. It’s probably even some of the same out of state crew lobbying for raw milk and against GMO, whichever is hiring at the moment.