[This rather lengthly post is the text of a talk I gave, speaking on behalf of the Vermont Coalition for Food Sovereignty, at a rally organized by Labels for Liberty in support of Vermont H.367, a bill that would require labeling of genetically modified food.
There was an all star lineup I was proud to be a part of, including Bread and Puppet, Brian Tokar, reps from NOFA and Rural Vermont, and author & activist Bill McKibben. He sent regrets & a strong statement of support, but I was honored to share a stage with him anyway. As we were speaking, one those summer thunderstorms swept in over the statehouse in back of us … very dramatic and fitting.
The Vermont Coalition for Food Sovereignty (also here on FB) was founded in the wake of the passage of the so-called Food Safety Bill by the feds. We were pretty active on the raw milk issue in the spring, hosting Butter Appreciation Day at the statehouse. I hope to post more of that material when I get a chance. – Ed.]
Hello. My name is William Robb. I am speaking in support of H.367 as a member of the Vermont Coalition for Food Sovereignty.
I’d like to thank Khris his crew for organizing this rally, for giving us all the chance to speak out so strongly in support of H.367, requiring the labeling of genetically modified food.
In thinking about this bill, I started to wonder – if Genetically Modified foods are as great and as safe as the likes of Monsanto are telling us, why do we have to legislate labeling of GM ingredients? Wouldn’t these companies want to use GM ingredients as a selling point? I can imagine a cartoon mutant, for example, singing “GMO – Great! … and More Of It …”
But even Monsanto doesn’t think that letting people know about the GM content of their food is a selling point.
And, with good reason.
We, as a people, are simply not that enamored with idea of eating genetically modified foodstuffs. And we are even less thrilled with the surprising fact that our food contains genetically modified ingredients.
A two-year study by the Pew Initiative on Food found that most people believed they never ate GM Foods because if they had, they would have seen the label. Focus groups conducted by the FDA (!) uncovered “outrage” that such extensive changes to our food supply could occur without our knowledge.
People felt that this meant food producers had “something to hide.”
And they do.
The health problems and the environmental issues associated with GM food hid behind a veil of ignorance perpetuated by lack of clear labeling. This, in turn speaks to a larger topic – that of Food Sovereignty.
The connection between the Labeling bill and the broader issue of Food Sovereignty runs directly through our ability to choose what we eat.
In a society such as ours, where the lines between the government and corporate interests are increasingly blurred, it is not enough to simply cast vote at the ballot box. It is not enough to talk to our legislators, to advocate for what we believe in, as we are doing here today.
In a society ruled by unfettered free market capitalism, we must also vote with our dollars. We need to send our message about GM food to the marketplace as well as the statehouse.
In our democratic based system of governance, it is one person – one vote. In our market-based system of economics, it is one dollar – one vote.
Choosing which products we buy is therefore our phone call to the legislators of the market place. Choosing how we spend our money is the rally, the protest march, that the corporations will understand
Passing H.367, requiring the labeling of genetically engineered food is essential so we can cast our economic votes, so we can stage a rally in the market place.