The front page of the Manchester Journal, Friday, March 28, 2014 ran a story titled "Waiver Sought for Starbucks." What the article didn't say, and probably what those seeking the parking waiver for the Starbucks don't know, is that Starbucks in Manchester may be a step in the direction against the local fresh food movement. Starbucks is, of course, not aware that our town is working on a Manchester 20/20 plan that focuses on developing a local and regional identity and economy that doesn't rely upon outlet stores. Starbucks is clearly not in line with local efforts.

The Starbucks company website states: "We're committed to offering high-quality, ethically purchased and responsibly produced products." This website isn't accurate. Starbucks is serving dairy products from factory farms where animals are fed genetically engineered grains and given sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics. Starbucks' baked goods are made in part from genetically engineered products. Starbucks also uses azodicarbonamide, a fluffing agent also used in rubber-soled shoes and yoga-mats. (The same is true of Dunkin' Donuts and McDonalds but they don't make the same claims as Starbucks.) Starbucks is also a dues-paying member of the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA). The GMA in the past few years has contributed millions of dollars campaigning to defeat transparency and openness and the consumers' right to know what we are eating. Starbucks, as part of the GMA, helped to defeat Proposition 37 in California. Then the GMA put its efforts behind seeing the defeat of I-522 to Label Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in Washington State where Starbucks' home is located. The GMA contributed $11 million in that campaign. Later it was revealed that most of the donations were illegal.

The GMA doesn't want to have labels on food announcing GMO's even though there is evidence that GMO food has proven harmful and thus is already banned in many countries. Nevertheless, corporate interests outweigh citizen rights and citizen health in America. Money paid to political campaigns or used to secure political appointment on the Federal level prevail over the health considerations of our citizens. It doesn't matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat - if you support Big Agriculture they'll support you.

There is a revolving door between executives and lawyers who serve top positions in the FDA, EPA, USDA and other Federal bureaus and the Chemical Companies ask Clarence Thomas and Donald Rumsfeld, two men who have worked for Monsanto (Searle). Recently, the New York Times reported that a representative of Monsanto said, "Corporations should not have to take responsibility for the safety of its food products." One year ago, on March 26 President Obama signed US HR 933 into law. Part of this Bill contains the Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735, a provision critic's call, the Monsanto Protection Act. It likely strips judges of their constitutional mandate to protect consumer rights and the environment.

There are 64 countries that have mandated the labeling of GMO's but not the USA. Connecticut and Maine have passed labeling laws, but the rules do not go into effect until at least three other states establish the same requirement. In 2013, 50 bills were introduced to require labeling in 26 states. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently introduced federal legislation that would require nationwide labeling of Genetically Engineered (GE) products. Other states with pending legislation on GMO labeling include California, Missouri, Minnesota and Rhode Island. In Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Arizona and Oregon efforts are in motion to put the question on the ballot. "American consumers want the right to know what is in the food they eat, plain and simple," said Rebecca Spector, who spearheads Maine's GE labeling legislative efforts at Center for Food Safety.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg is rushing to prevent that from happening. Her Deputy Commissioner for Foods is Michael R. Taylor, a former Monsanto lobbyist. He is formalizing the big push against mandatory labeling.

Vermont residents want clean soil and water and air and safe food. We want to know what foods have been tampered with genetically. We want our children and grandchildren to have safe food to eat rather than food that may disrupt their immune system.

The Vermont House of Representatives, and the Senate Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Judiciary has passed Bill H. 112 to have all foods labeled if they contain genetically modified ingredients. Our courageous Senator from Bennington County, Dick Sears, has warned that the Chemical Companies will sue the state of Vermont if H.112 passes. But he and the other representatives and senators in Vermont are among the most fearless and bold in the United States. They are not being intimidated by Big Ag and they have listened to their constituents and conferred with the Attorney General of Vermont and have made the decision to move ahead without a "trigger" clause. That means, without waiting for other states to adopt GMO labeling. If Vermont passes H.122 it will be the first state in the union to do so.

Vermont needs to take the lead and to make a stand right now in what will be one of the greatest issues of our century in the USA -the right of citizens, rather than corporations, to control our lives and destiny. The label GMO's is but the first in a long list of citizen's rights that we need to claim in order to protect our democracy.

Please tell our friends Senator Dick Sears ( 802-828-2231, RSEARS@leg. state. vt. us) and Senator Bob Hartwell (rhartwell@leg.state.vt.us) that you support H. 112 and that you want to make Vermont safe from corporate incursions.

Starbucks is coming to town, so is Subway, and we have McDonalds and Dunkin' Donuts. You can take action and urge these businesses to use non-GMO and organic products. The local fresh food movement is already focusing on healthy food. Support your local CSA's and any business, cafe, restaurant, and store in town and elsewhere in Vermont that is part of this movement.

Raise your voice so that Vermont legislators know that you want them to work for you and to maintain Vermont's Freedom and Unity.

Steve Berry is a resident of Manchester.