By Kevin Joseph Ryan
When last we left off in Part I of this True North Report, we had pointed out that many sources have reported, including the International Journal of Biological Sciences and the European Commission, that genetically modified food is no more dangerous than food sources created by more traditional means. Those findings are in conjunction with the FDA’s position on the subject.
However, the industry of organic farming, along with the political left, is making a major effort to convince Vermont and the country that GMO foods are dangerous, so much so that labeling them as genetically modified should be mandated in Vermont. This has been attempted this legislative session with bill H. 722, which as of this writing appears dead in committee, but is nearly certain to return to consideration in 2013.
This mandatory labeling effort is being led by Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and the Cedar Circle Farm of Thetford. It should come as no coincidence that the bill’s leading sponsor, Rep. James Masland (D-Winsor-Orange) is from Thetford as well. A coalition promoting the bill exists as well, including Rural Vermont and the Institute for Social Ecology, but VPIRG and Cedar Circle are the key players here.
Why would these two politically left groups be leading the charge for GMO labeling? It could be because they are looking out for the public good. Or, it could be because neither group is a stranger to big corporate business.
In VPIRG’s case, President Duane Peterson and Clean Energy Program Director James Moore, just recently used VPRG’s social mission to push for a 2011 Solar Incentive law here in Vermont, requiring energy companies to double their purchases of solar power, then test marketed their solar program within VPIRG until they reached four million dollars in sales. When that was accomplished, they spun off their own private company, SunCommon, in partnership with Sunpower Corporation of California, a megacorporation with over two billion dollars in annual revenue. I’m sure both Mr. Moore and Mr. Peterson will earn a tidy sum from their efforts at VPRIG. They are now washing Cedar Circle’s back by push GMO labeling, having sponsored a State House Rally on April 18th.
Cedar Circle Farm of Thetford, the face of GMO labeling here in Vermont, is in far deeper. The farm is managed by Will Allen, a Vietnam-era Berkley associate, who has been releasing articles nationwide directly accusing Monsanto Foods of threatening to sue the State of Vermont should the state dare pass a law requiring the labeling of GMO food. Cedar Circle itself is a non-profit organic farm, but it has current revenues of well over $2.5 million per year. Cedar Circle was established in the year 2000 by the Azadoutioun Foundation, run by wealthy heiress Carolyn Mugar, herself estimated to be worth over $25 million. She then hired both Allen and Cat Buxton at $62,000 each per year, to promote organic food. Carolyn wasn’t always an organic entrepreneur, however. She used to represent the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union.
However, the above facts are not very clearly presented by either VPIRG or Cedar Circle in their efforts to promote GMO labeling. Cat Buxton, the Education Director of Cedar Circle, simply identified herself at the April 18th GMO rally as “a citizen activist.” While there is little doubt that Ms. Buxton is a citizen and an activist, there is a bit more here than meets the eye. What should be in serious doubt is Will Allen’s claim that Monsanto has any plans whatsoever to sue the State over GMO labeling. We will find out what really happened in Part III of this TNR Report.
Kevin Ryan has never worked for Monsanto a day in his life, but he has been known to enjoy Hostess Cupcakes, a food that probably has GMO’s in it.