Sanders sticks fork in Senate GMO labeling bill

first_imgVermont Business Magazine Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Governor Peter Shumlin each issued statements on US Senate action days before Vermont’s first-in-the nation GMO labeling law takes effect: “On Friday, Vermont will become the first state in the nation to require GMO labeling. This is a triumph for ordinary Americans over the powerful interests of Monsanto and other multi-national food industry corporations.Senator Sanders. VBM file photo.”We cannot allow Vermont’s law to be overturned by bad federal legislation that has just been announced. I will do everything I can to defeat this bill, beginning by putting a hold on it in the Senate.“The agreement announced by Senators Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow would create a confusing, misleading and unenforceable national standard for labeling GMOs. It would impose no penalties for violating the labeling requirement, making the law essentially meaningless.“This isn’t controversial. The overwhelming majority of Americans favor GMO labeling. People have a right to know what is in the food they eat.”Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)Labeling Genetically Engineered IngredientsSenate FloorJune 28, 2016″This week marks an historic moment in Vermont.  This coming Friday, July 1, Vermont’s Act 120, the first-in-the-nation labeling law for genetically engineered (GE) foods, will take effect.  Unfortunately for consumers everywhere, it could be a short-lived celebration.  Late last week, a so-called “deal” was reached on a national mandatory labeling law.  I have now had the chance to review this proposal closely.  Vermonters have reviewed it closely.  I can say this:  It falls short.Senator Leahy. VBM file photo.This is an extremely complex issue – from how we define genetically engineered foods, to how we treat animal products; from the impact on the organics industry to how small businesses respond.  The details matter.  And that is why the Vermont Legislature spent two years debating it, with more than 50 committee hearings featuring testimony from more than 130 representatives on all sides of the issue.  The Senate has not held a single hearing on labeling, and only one hearing on the issue of biotechnology, but none on the issue of labeling foods or seeds.To be fair, the proposal unveiled last Thursday is an improvement over the legislation that the Senate rejected in March.  That bill would continue the current status quo.  It proposed a meaningless “volunteer-only” approach, a thinly veiled attempt to block Vermont’s labeling law and keep any other state from acting.  This current proposal at least acknowledges that states like Vermont have acted in this area.We heard from the organic industry, expressing reservations over how they might be treated under a federal GE labeling program.  Some of those concerns have been addressed, and the proposal reinforces that the USDA Organic seal remains the gold standard. The proposal follows what Vermont’s Act 120 does with respect to animal products and addresses the gap in the Vermont law for processed foods inspected by USDA.The proposal also acknowledges, at long last, what I have been saying for the past year: that in many rural parts of this country, including most of Vermont, we have significant technological challenges that make it nearly impossible for consumers to access the electronic or digital disclosure methods allowed in this bill.  By requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to complete a study on this issue, I believe these difficulties unavoidably will be recognized, and the Secretary should have the authority he needs to require additional disclosure options.  I do hope, however, that the proponents of this proposal will not try to put the burden on our retail establishments to install costly digital scanners.The proponents of this “deal” were sent back to the drawing board after we succeeded in derailing the earlier proposal on March 16.  I was proud to lead Vermont’s efforts to prevent that bill from passing.  While it is true that this new attempt is an improvement in several ways, it is clear that this revised plan is driven more by the perspectives of powerful special interests, than by a commitment to honor consumers’ right to know.  Consumers’ right to know merits only grudging acceptance in this plan; consumers are far from this plan’s highest priority. And so, while this proposal makes some positive, though modest, improvements, I remain deeply concerned that it will not offer transparency for consumers, transparency that many companies have already opted to provide.Thanks to the citizen-led efforts in Vermont, we are seeing more and more consumer-friendly information easily accessible to shoppers.  No scanning some code.  No calling an 800 number. They simply flip the product over and see if the product has genetically engineered ingredients. We have seen countless pictures sent in by shoppers finding these labels.  Labeling is neither complicated nor cost-prohibitive in practice.To make matters worse, this bill has absolutely no enforcement mechanism.  The negotiators of this proposal seem to think public pressure will be enough to force these multi-million dollar corporations to comply.  This proposal makes consumers the cops on the beat, policing companies to provide information about the contents of their product.  Surely families squeezing every minute out of every day will have time to hold companies accountable in the court of public opinion.  We should not place this added burden on consumers seeking only to know what they are feeding their families.At the end of the day, each of us have different reasons for wanting to know what is in our foods. The fact is that without labeling of GE foods, consumers cannot make informed choices. This purported “deal” does not go far enough to give consumers what they are asking for, a simple on-package label or symbol.And of course, this bill does more than just block states from enacting GE food labeling laws like Vermont’s Act 120.  It also blocks a longstanding seed labeling law in Vermont, one that Vermont’s organic farmers appreciate, as do conventional farmers and even backyard hobby gardeners.  This is a law that has been on the books since 2004 and ensures clear, meaningful information for farmers to know exactly what they are buying.Perhaps in a state like Kansas where the last Organic Farm Survey in 2014 counted only 83 organic farms, or in Michigan, where there were some 332 organic farms in a state that is 10 times the size of Vermont, having access to that seed information is not considered very useful or important to farmers.  But in a state like Vermont, where our organic farming association assures me that we now have well over 600 organic farms, our seed labeling law is important.  The industry has complied with it for the last twelve years.  Yet with no hearings and no debate, this deal will block Vermont’s seed law and prevent any other state that sought to enact one as well.As the Senate author of the national organic standards and labeling program, I continue to closely monitor and work to protect the high standards for the organic program that have given consumers’ confidence in the organic label, and that have given organic producers the strong, clear and meaningful standards that they have demanded.  These clear rules have ensured the success of the program and have given all producers a level playing field.  This extraordinarily successful program is the key reason that America’s organic sector continues its multi-billion-dollar growth and acceptance both here at home, and abroad, in the products we export.  Labeling of genetically engineered products is an outgrowth of the organic movement.  As a watchdog of that program, I simply cannot support this proposal.Vermonters have a long tradition of leading the national debate, on issues crossing the spectrum.  Vermonters stand for transparency and a consumer’s right to know.  Vermonters want to make informed decisions for their families and with their limited grocery budgets.  We acknowledge that powerful interests are allied against Vermont’s law and against the nation’s consumers.  That has been a fact from the beginning.  The proposal released last week does not respect the work that Vermont has painstakingly done in this space, and this Vermonter will not – cannot – support it.  Vermonters deserve better.  And so do all Americans.”Governor Shumlin signing the GMO bill in May 2014.Governor Shumlin said in his statement: “Our small state has been a pioneer in pushing vigorously for the rights of consumers to know what’s in their food. Our labeling law is set to take effect on July 1. It appears Congress has struck a deal that would preempt our law and replace it with a flawed national labeling standard.  While in concept a national standard makes sense, I have deep concerns with the provisions in this legislation.First, this bill will preempt Vermont and delay for several years the right for consumers nationwide to know what’s in their food. Second, while Vermont required GMO information printed right on the label, the legislation being put forward in Congress allows the food manufacturer to choose how to disclose the information, including using an electronic code that has to be scanned by a device to access GMO information. That solution falls short for consumers who lack access to technology or the internet to find out what’s in their food.In addition, I have concerns about a lack of clarity for enforcing monetary penalties if a company fails to comply with the labeling standard, which would render it toothless. Finally, the legislation – unlike Vermont’s – would potentially allow products with a significant portion of GMO ingredients to skate by without being subject to labeling requirements.The Vermont Congressional delegation have been tireless champions for Vermonters on this issue. I’ll be working with Sen. Leahy, Sen. Sanders and Rep. Welch  in the coming days to see if we can remedy the serious defects in this national legislation. If we cannot, this legislation should not become law and I will oppose it.”Source: WASHINGTON, June 28 – Senator Bernie Sanders; Senator Patrick Leahy; Governor Shumlinlast_img read more

Insurer to bear costs of mirror wills mix-up

first_imgThe Supreme Court today ordered a solicitor’s insurer to pay the bulk of both parties’ costs over a wills dispute arising when a married couple each signed the wrong draft of a will. Judges unanimously agreed that the solicitor’s insurer in Marley v Rawlings should pay the costs of both parties for earlier hearings where they contested a £70,000 inheritance.The case started after the deaths of Alfred and Maureen Rawlings and the subsequent discovery each had signed the other’s will. Both had intended to leave their entire estate to Terry Marley, whom they treated as their son.When the mistake was found out, the couple’s two sons, Terry and Michael, contested the will, arguing that the mistake meant their father had died intestate, leaving them to inherit. Following defeat in the High Court and Court of Appeal, Marley succeeded in the Supreme Court, which concluded that each will was valid, despite the oversight.On the matter of costs, Marley contended that this was ordinary hostile litigation, and the sons should pay costs incurred in all three courts. The solicitor’s insurers made submissions in support of this case.The respondents, who instructed their legal advisers in the Supreme Court on a conditional fee agreement, said all parties’ costs should come from the estate – or failing that should be paid for by the insurers.The Supreme Court agreed the insurers should pay the appellant’s costs, the respondents’ solicitors’ disbursements, and, the respondents’ two counsels’ fees, conditional on the respondents’ counsel disclaiming any entitlement to their success fees under their CFA.The court found it would be unfair to settles parties’ costs from the estate as this would cause Marley to suffer a loss.The judgment said: ‘This is not a case where it could possibly be right to ignore the position of the solicitor. The problem in this case arose as a result of the solicitor’s negligence, and the insurers, on behalf of the solicitor, had required Mr Marley to bring proceedings to seek to have the will upheld.’The court commented that the insurer’s agreement to underwrite the appellant’s costs of the appeal placed them in the position of a third-party funder. Further, the solicitors had no defence to a claim from the appellant for damages.Commenting on the case, Alex Bagnall, head of commercial litigation costs for Law Lords, said: ‘The key aspect of this case which allowed the order to be made against the solicitors’ insurer is their role in funding the appellant’s costs.‘The insurers placed themselves in the position of third-party funders by exerting a degree of control over the litigation and by standing to gain from its outcome. Without this agreement, I think it is unlikely that the court could have made such an order.’last_img read more

Protest against Haiti election turns violent; 1 dead

first_img Share Protesters cart the body of a demonstrator who was killed by a gunshot in clashes with residents in a neighbourhood known for it’s support of the ruling party, during a protest march against official preliminary election results, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, November 20. (Photo: AP)PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) – At least one person was killed and several others wounded as opposition supporters staged violent protests in the capital against the preliminary results of the October 25 legislative and first round presidential elections, police and opposition party officials said.They said that the protestors erected barricades, burning tyres as they took to the streets demanding a recall of the election results.Police said one man was shot during the protest over the weekend that also saw police using tear gas and fired gunshots to disperse the crowd.A spokesman for the Pitit Dessalines party, whose presidential candidate, Moise Jean-Charles, came third in the first round, has blamed the authorities for the incident.“Two men, dressed in police uniforms and on a motorbike, opened fire at close range and assassinated one of our activists,” said Assad Volcy, saying that he followed the protesters who carried the victim’s remains to another part of town in a wheelbarrow.Opposition politicians have been demanding the resignation of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) accusing it of not ensuring that the polls on October 25 were free and fair.According to the preliminary results released on November 5, the ruling party candidate Jovenel Moise will contest a run off on December 27 with the opposition candidate Jude Celestin to replace President Michel Martelly who is prevented by law from contesting a third consecutive presidential election.The CEP said Moise had received 32 per cent of the votes cast while Celestin, of the Lapeh party, received 25 per cent. Tweet Share Sharecenter_img NewsPoliticsRegional Protest against Haiti election turns violent; 1 dead by: Caribbean Media Corporation – November 23, 2015 215 Views   no discussions Sharing is caring!last_img read more