Monsanto Threatens to Sue over GMO Labeling in Vermont
The citizens of Vermont want GMO foods to be labeled. As NaturalSociety’s Anthony Gucciardi reported in 2013, a bill which has already passed the House awaits a final O.K. by the Senate. If Monsanto gets their way though, as made evident in heated testimony given at the Statehouse this past Wednesday before a Judiciary Committee, not only will the bill get stalled in the Senate, but Monsanto points to the fact that the state will have to spend around a million dollars just to defend the bill in court.
You can guess who is on Monsanto’s latest pay-roll. Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee warned that, although he ‘supports a labeling bill’, he feels that there are potential litigation costs which could hinder state finances. He also mentions that dairy would also be excluded from the bill, but currently there is no GMO dairy in Vermont.
Agreeing with Monsanto’s interests and testifying that the new law would have to be defended is Assistant Attorney General Bridget Asay, stating that even if the state was successful in passing a GMO-labeling bill, the legal challenge could end up costing more than $5 million, and the state would not be able to recover legal fees. She estimates that the total cost would include potential reimbursement for a victorious plaintiff – Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and their poison-filled coffers.
The ‘expert’ testimony arguing against the labeling law likely did not include the potential costs if genetically modified organisms are allowed to continue to run rampant in our food supply – including costs to organic farmers, and the possibility that just three companies could end up owning the seed rights to just about every food we eat, once they are genetically modified and have cross-pollinated non-GMO crops.
Potential amendments to the bill could include:
1. The requirement a legal defense fund to cover the costs of litigation started by Big Ag companies, and;
2. An exemption of dairy for fear that it might undermine the bill’s passing or viability in court.
Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s is concerned about a proposal to pass the bill with one exception: if a privately funded legal defense fund would be established to cover the expense of legal challenges.
“Quite frankly that boxes us in,” Sears told Asay at the hearing. He said he thinks it would be irresponsible to set the state up for a potentially costly lawsuit without setting aside the money to pay for it.
Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, said she’s troubled by the prospect of setting a precedent for supporting only what can be backed by wealthy interests. The legal defense fund idea was not part of the Senate Agriculture bill, Sears acknowledged after the hearing, but he said that doesn’t mean the idea can’t be revisited.
How might Big Ag fight the bill legally? A potential lawsuit would possibly be based on several legal arguments: First Amendment rights and protections against compelled speech, “equal protection” laws, rules prohibiting conflict between state and federal laws, and the so-called “dormant commerce clause” saying states can’t make laws that will have an adverse impact on interstate commerce.
Where our rights not to be poisoned to death come in, should be an equal concern to any attorney fighting a potential case. How about a counter suit for murder, and billions of dollars in pain and suffering fees to people who are dying of kidney failure, and cancer, or having reproductive challenges due to GMO crops? These politicians need to stop worrying about Monsanto and Big Ag’s threats and take care of the people that put them in office, otherwise, they will be looking for new jobs come next election.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.