Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, left at podium, is asked a question by former Vermont state Sen. Hull Maynard at the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce, REDC and TD Bank Legislative Breakfast at the South Station in Rutland on Monday morning.
RUTLAND — Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday that a bill on labeling genetically modified foods could do its cause more harm than good.
The governor addressed a crowd of more than 100 in the South Station restaurant during the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce’s legislative breakfast.
Shumlin heard from Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Thomas Donahue against the bill on the grounds it would harm a number of local businesses which use genetically modified canola oil. Then a member of the audience countered that many people locally want to know what they are buying, as evidenced by the success of the farmers market.
Shumlin said he supports labeling, but that the bill resembled one dealing with a milk-production hormone that was passed during his time in the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Howard Dean.
“The food industry took us to the Second Circuit,” Shumlin said. “It was not only called unconstitutional for some very good reasons, but we had to pay the legal fees.”
Shumlin said the “anti-labeling” forces would like him to sign the bill because they know they can defeat it in court and likely set back the labeling movement nationally.
Shumlin also told the crowd about his push for greater science and math education and his efforts to fund transportation improvements in the state.
The governor described how, when he took office, employers would tell him they were looking at layoffs. Now, he says, they are telling him they have jobs to offer but cannot find trained Vermonters to fill them.
“I say that the biggest job for us between poverty and prosperity is graduating enough students that have the skills to do the jobs our employers need done,” he said. “I’m not saying everybody has to go to college. ... What I am saying is a high school degree is no longer a ticket to prosperity.”
Shumlin then plugged his drive to see algebra required by freshmen and geometry by sophomores in all Vermont high schools.
While there has been much talk of high-tech jobs, Shumlin said Vermonters should not discount traditional trades.
“If we keep going the way we are, we’re not going to be able to hire a plumber or an electrician in 10 years,” he said. “They look like me — they’re gray. We need to get more kids going into the trades.”
On the subject of transportation, Shumlin defended a move toward increasing the gas tax, saying it was necessary if the state did not want to give back millions in federal transportation money for which the state lacks matching funds. The choice, he said, is between raising the tax or canceling projects like roads, bridges and the Western rail corridor.
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