VBSR Letter to House, Re: H.112, Labeling of GMO food
High Mowing Organic SeedsRead member testimonial
May 8, 2013
VBSR Supports the Labeling of GMO Food
Re: H.112, An Act Relating to the Labeling of Food Produced with Genetic Engineering.
Dear House member:
The use of the word "Vermont" on a label has come to indicate product quality and purity. Meanwhile, the introduction of genetically engineering has changed how food is grown in the United States and the attitudes consumers have about the food they eat.
VBSR believes the use of GMO/GE ingredients in Vermont products threatens to undercut the vitality and reputation of the Vermont brand.
People who are purchasing food for their families deserve to know what they are eating and how it was grown in order to make informed decisions about their health. Vermont food producers need to make informed choices about the way they want to grow and market their products—whether organic or simply without genetic modifications engineered in a laboratory.
VBSR Membership Survey (2012): Do you support Vermont’s effort to label food made with genetic engineering? Yes: 80%
The market for these products is growing and association with this trend will make GMO-free Vermont products more attractive to consumers. Sales of Non-GMO Project verified products grew to $1.2 billion in 2011, a 219% increase.
VBSR believes that requiring the labeling of GMO/GE food will change the purchasing habits of consumers and lead to more people seeking out products that are not genetically engineered. Vermont can take a leadership role in this important consumer rights issue and strengthen the state’s brand by requiring all genetically engineered food sold here to be appropriately labeled.
We ask that you support H.112. Thank you for your time and service.
Vermont lawmakers are just a few weeks away from the end of the 2013 session and are still facing some big decisions before they adjourn. The state budget, a proposed slate of new taxes and bills on everything from campaign finance reform to death with dignity could still pass. Here's an update on some of the bills that VBSR is tracking:
- Health Care Reform: The state released rates last month for Vermont Health Connect, the insurance exchange that opens for enrollment in October, but House and Senate lawmakers are wrangling over subsidies for low-income residents who will face steeper out-of-pocket prices under Gov. Shumlin's most recent proposal. VBSR supports more funding in the Exchanges to reduce the cost of health care for Vermonters.
- Energy and Efficiency: Senators ultimately rejected a ban on new wind energy developments in Vermont, passing a bill that had no regulatory teeth. Meanwhile, the House's thermal efficiency bill - which overwhelmingly passed that chamber - now sits in the Senate and has no new appropriations attached. VBSR believes we should invest in home-heating efficiency and more in-state renewable energy.
- GMO Labeling: The House Agriculture Committee easily approved a bill requiring the labeling of all GMO foods sold in Vermont, but that bill has languished since then. The House Judiciary Committee took the proposal up last week, but it appears unlikely to pass in this session. VBSR believes consumers have a right to know what is in their food.
- Equal Pay: The House passed this bill last month and it is now quickly making its way through the Senate chambers. An update and expansion of the state's laws prohibiting gender discrimination in pay, the bill also encourages businesses to consider flexible work schedules for employees when appropriate. VBSR supports equal pay legislation.
- Marijuana Decriminalization: The House passed a bill ending criminal sanctions for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana this month and the bill seems likely to arrive on the Senate floor before the end of the session. VBSR believes that small amounts of marijuana should be decriminalized.
VBSR Testimony to Senate Finance Committee
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Daniel Barlow, VBSR Public Policy Manager
Re: H.528, An act relating to revenue changes for fiscal year 2014 and fiscal year 2015
VBSR is a statewide business organization with more than 1,100 members across the state. Our businesses range from small single person businesses to large corporations with hundreds of employees. All together, our businesses employ about 15% of the state’s workforce and contribute upwards of $5 billion of the state’s economy.
VBSR Health Care Policy:
• Universal health care system providing access to fundamental care for all Vermonters.
• Control costs by cutting unnecessary waste and spending
• Decouple health insurance from employment
• Fund the system fairly based on a person’s ability to pay
The system is on the verge of collapse as businesses and individuals drop and reduce coverage. More of the costs of health care are thus shifted to families, state programs, or back onto those who are insured and employers who continue to provide insurance. Economic development in our state is very closely tied to the solution of this worsening problem.
What our businesses are experiencing
Premiums continue to rise, and employers continue to be faced with choosing between their company's economic viability and the health care needs of their workforce. Findings and conclusions from our member surveys:
• Nearly one-half of VBSR members spend the equivalent of 10% of their payroll on health insurance
• 20% of the members pay more than 20%.
• This “system” is not sustainable.
VBSR member businesses have responded to rising premium costs by cutting benefits and shifting more of the financial burden to employees.
The health insurance system can no longer depend on the private sector market as its backbone. 90% of VBSR members believe that health care should be a publically financed service.
Health Care Financing
How to finance a public health care system is one of the most fundamental questions facing Vermont. We applaud Gov. Shumlin, his administration and the Legislature for tackling this bold issue.
But VBSR believes we need to have the conversation about financing a new health care system sooner rather than later. A lot can change between now and 2017, but how to fairly and sustainably fund a health care system is essential question and the answer will affect people, communities and businesses across the state.
Misinformation and speculation will continue to fill the void if the Legislature and the Administration does not soon begin having this conversation with Vermonters.
The employer assessment on businesses not offering health insurance is a minor cost compared to that of paying for insurance for employees, but it was an important step toward leveling the playing field between businesses.
VBSR is concerned that employers who drop coverage when the Exchange comes online will then face fines through the existing assessment, despite that the program no longer exists. Vermont should not suggest these businesses drop coverage and then punish them for doing so. This disconnect needs to be addressed before the Exchange enrollment begins.