Several states across the Union have chosen to legislate on genetically modified foods. But national food industry lobbyists and the members of Congress they fund in Washington D.C. cannot abide any deviation from central authority, including the independent legislation considered by nearly 30 states.
The question of genetically modified organisms has been supported and opposed by groups that don’t typically find common ground on anything. Nouveau Southern Agrarians find common space with “crunchy cons” and the New Left, who are concerned about all foods that are genetically modified.
The discussion regarding the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is not the issue here. The more interesting point for TAC readers is federalism.
The State of Vermont passed a law that took effect July 1 that requires special labeling of products containing genetically engineered ingredients.
In response, over a thousand groups and businesses, including the American Farm Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce, have urged Congress to pass a federal law to preempt Vermont’s state law. This would make the Vermont law void.
Those who support the federal preemption law say there is no scientific evidence that GMO foods are unsafe. Further, supporters of the federal law cite the increased cost for businesses to comply with the Vermont standard; expenses like special packaging, sorting, and transportation for products specifically destined for Vermont.
The real issue in this case has nothing to do with the safety of GMOs, or possible objections to compelled free speech (Is telling a company that they have to label their food violating the First Amendment?), or the costs of complying with Vermont’s law. Opponents of Vermont’s law are just tasting sour grapes.
No. The issue is about people choosing their own path. Now, to be consistent, it would be great if that choice was reduced down to the individual, but the importance of a state deciding what it thinks is most important is a great step toward individual liberty.
If the Vermont GMO labeling law is a total disaster that raises the price of food and propagandizes for bad science, Vermont will either repeal the law, suffer the consequences as a state, or people will move to another state. The ability of states to compete necessarily requires that some fail while others succeed. But, in the end, we are all better off because of the process.
But what if Vermont’s law works for the Vermonters, even with the possible rise in prices? Let’s say that GMOs, as the science states, are no more dangerous that non-GMO foods. Regardless, if people living in Vermont are happier and feel safer, the federal government, it’s elected members of Congress, their staff, and lobbyists should not butt in.
Vermont – a state that elected a socialist senator while also having some of the best guns laws in the country– cannot be easily categorized as left or right. The citizens of the, aptly named, Freedom and Unity state have a better understanding of what they want than Washington, D.C.-lobbyists and elected members of U.S. Congress.
With that in mind, Vermonters – Americans of all stripes – should take a page out of the Tenth Amendment Center and ask themselves whom do they live for, work for, and want to help? In other words, why not resist an oppressive, overreaching government?