“Courage” notwithstanding, Shumlin wants House to kill GMO labeling bill

If it was up to him, Peter Shumlin would want Vermont consumers to know if there were any genetically modified organisms hiding out in their food.

But he’s pretty sure the U.S. Supreme Court isn’t on the same page, so he’s urging legislators to let a controversial GMO labeling bill wither on the vine this year.

At a press conference Wednesday, Shumlin said the bill, pending in the House Committee on Agriculture, is almost identical to the rBST labeling law passed under his aegis in the mid-1990s.

Later signed into law by then-Gov. Howard Dean, the statute would have forced processors to indicate on retail labels if the milk therein had been produced by cows treated with the artificial growth hormone rBST.   

Legal counsel told him then that the law would likely be struck down, but Shumlin said “we decided it was worth the fight.”

“We lost in the U.S. Supreme Court. It cost us a lot of money,” Shumlin said.

His best legal minds tell him now that the GMO bill under consideration this year would likely suffer a similar fate.

“You know me – I’ve got a lot of courage. I believe that consumers a have a right to know what they’re eating,” Shumlin said. “I also know this is almost identical to the case that we lost in the U.S. Supreme Court, and it was a better court then than we have now on these issues.”

The biotech industry looks poised to challenge the law if it goes through, a threat largely responsible for the bill’s dim prospects this year. But proponents haven’t conceded defeat.

This evening, in Room 11 of the Statehouse, House lawmakers will convene a public hearing on the bill. The event runs from 6:30 to 8:30.