vermont farm

As the national discussion over labeling of genetically modified foods heats up with the recent petition submission to the FDA boasting the most signatures in history, news has emerged that Monsanto—the largest manufacturer of GMO seeds and companion pesticides—plans to sue Vermont if the state passes a mandatory labeling law on foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

Appearing on the Alternet website, the article was co-written by director Ronnie Cummins and board member Will Allen of the outspoken consumer advocacy group, the Organic Consumers Association. The two allege that the legislative bill currently in the Vermont House Agriculture Committee is being held up with attempts to avoid voting before legislative session ends for the season in order to skirt the inevitable legal backlash from Monsanto.

While Monsanto has yet to file any suit against Vermont, Allen and Cummins look to the biotech company’s history as an indicator of what lies ahead: “Monsanto has used lawsuits or threats of lawsuits for 20 years to force unlabeled genetically engineered foods on the public, and to intimidate farmers into buying their genetically engineered seeds and hormones.” According to Allen and Cummins, back in 1994, when Vermont was the first state to require labeling on dairy products containing Bovine Growth Hormones (rBGH), Monsanto sued the state and won on the grounds that the company had first amendment rights to “remain silent on whether or not they are injecting their cows with rBGH.”

Similar to Vermont, California is also on the path towards enforcing mandatory labeling of GMOs by bypassing legislature to collect the 850,000 signatures needed for a citizens’ initiative that would force the issue onto the November 2012 ballot. But, says, Allen and Cummins, “Monsanto wields tremendous influence in Washington, DC and most state capitols,” which could prove challenging for California. Documents released by Wikileaks last year corroborated the OCA’s claims about the company’s influence, showing high level U.S. government pressure on EU countries with strict anti-GMO regulations to allow the planting and import of Monsanto’s genetically modified foods. And the one million signatures on the recently submitted petition to the FDA were reduced down to just 394 because of an agency rule on how comments and signatures must be submitted.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Muffet