vermont

In a 28–2 vote, the Vermont state senate passed a bill yesterday requiring mandatory labeling on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients sold within the state. It would also make it unlawful to label those foods as “natural.” The bill now goes back to Vermont’s House, which is expected to approve changes to the bill before it goes to Governor Peter Shumlin to be signed into law.

Unlike other GMO labeling bills recently passed in Maine and Connecticut, the Vermont bill (H.112) is not a “trigger” law; it does not require additional states to pass similar bills in order for it to be enacted. It will be the first GMO labeling law of its kind to pass in the U.S.

“We have a growing food movement in which people are demanding more transparency,” Michele Simon, a public health attorney and president of Eat Drink Politics told Reuters.

“Today’s victory in Vermont has been 20 years in the making,” said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association. “Ever since genetically modified crops and foods entered the U.S. food supply in the early 1990s, without adequate independent pre-market safety testing and without labels, U.S. consumers have fought to require the labeling of foods containing GMOs.”

GMO labeling bills have failed in public votes recently in California and Washington—states predicted to pass the measures. But the anti-labeling lobby was successful in swaying voters to believe labeling GMOs would be costly to taxpayers and the states’ farmers, driving up food costs.

“Vermont’s landmark victory today will force food companies to either label GMOs in all states, or reformulate their products to be GMO-free in order to avoid stating ‘this product was produced using genetic engineering’ on their packaging,” said Cummins. “When Oregon passes a citizens’ ballot initiative to label GMOs in November, as we believe it will, the biotech and food industries will have lost, beyond the shadow of a doubt, their battle to keep consumers in the dark.”

If passed, the law would take effect July 1, 2016.

[Editor’s Note: The Vermont House of Representatives approved the Senate’s changes to H. 112 and the bill now goes to Governor Shumlin to be signed into law.]

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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