U.S.: Vermont moves to become first state with GMO labeling

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U.S.: Vermont moves to become first state with GMO labeling

Vermont has moved closer to becoming the first U.S. state to implement mandatory labeling for genetically modified foods.

The state Senate approved H.112 by a vote of 28-2 on Wednesday. The House passed the bill in May of last year.supermarket_square2

To finalize the legislation, the House will now need to accept amendments made by the Senate, which could happen as early as this week. Governor Peter Shumlin will then sign the bill into law.

If enacted, the legislation would come into effect July 1, 2016, making Vermont the first state to require such GMO disclosure on retail labels.

It would also prohibit products containing GMOs to be labeled as "natural" or "all natural."

Unlike similar bills passed in Connecticut and Maine, Vermont's law does not require other states to implement the same measures before taking effect.

Proponents of the bill anticipated lawsuits to prevent implementation of the legislation. The Organic Consumers Organization (OCA) expressed certainty that such resistance would not delay enactment.

"We expect that Monsanto will sue the state of Vermont in order to prevent enactment of H.112. We also expect that Monsanto will lose, and the law will go into effect on schedule, on July 1, 2016," said Ronnie Cummins, the organization's national director.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, an opponent of the bill, has already acknowledged the possibility of legal action.

"We will continue to fight to protect the accuracy and consistency of food labels, and if it turns out that litigation is the best way to do that then that is an option we will pursue," said Mandy Hagan, GMA's vice president of state affairs and grassroots, on Politico.com.

Earlier in the week, GMA hailed the introduction of the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act" to the U.S. House of Representatives. The federal bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo from Kansas, would nullify labeling laws passed on the state level.

"We've got a number of states that are attempting to put together a patchwork quilt of food labeling requirements with respect to genetic modification of foods ... That makes it enormously difficult to operate a food system.

"Some of the campaigns in some of these states aren't really to inform consumers but rather aimed at scaring them. What this bill attempts to do is set a standard," Pompeo told Reuters.

OCA was also confident that the federal bill would not defeat Vermont's law.

"We expect that Congress will not pass this law, dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, which seeks to deny consumers the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered, and deny states the right to enact laws designed to protect public health," Cummins said.

Vermont's bill asserts the validity of the labeling requirement, stating GMOs "potentially pose risks to health, safety, agriculture, and the environment."

The validity of safety concerns will be central in legal debates on the legislation.

GMA vice president, Karin Moore, testified previously to Vermont's Senate Judiciary Committee that evidence of such risk is insufficient, citing previous rulings on similar cases.

"Given the evidence about the safety of food containing ingredients derived from genetic engineering, it is unlikely the government will even be able to get off the ground under that standard," she said on Politico.com.

The legislation's preamble seeks to justify the state need for such legislation, pointing to lack of testing undertaken by the Food and Drug Administration and the absence of federal action to regulate GMOs.

Photo: www.shutterstock.com



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