MONTPELIER, Vt.—The Vermont Legislature has passed the first no-strings-attached bill that would require labeling of genetically modified foods.
Pending signature by Gov. Peter Shumlin, the legislation would take effect July 1, 2016.
By a vote of 114 to 30, the state House passed the bill.
Unlike GMO labeling laws in Connecticut and Maine, Vermont's legislation would not require passage of similar bills by additional states in order to take effect.
"We are one step away from ratifying the strongest GMO labeling bill in the United States," proclaimed Vermont Right to Know GMOs, a collaborative project.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) wasn't impressed and indicated that legal action could be forthcoming.
"It sets the nation on a costly and misguided path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that will do nothing to advance the safety of consumers," GMA stated. "We are currently in the process of evaluating the legislation to determine the best course of action in response to its passage."
GMA is in favor of federal legislation that was introduced earlier this month by Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican. The "Safe and Accurate Labeling Act of 2014" would limit the circumstances in which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could require labels for genetically modified foods and block states from requiring such labels, eliminating the potential for a patchwork of state regulations that could drive up food costs, mislead consumers and burden farmers, Pompeo said.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), whose members include a multinational agricultural company often associated with genetically engineered crops--Monsanto, the producer of GMO crops--also has opposed the Vermont legislation and expressed support for Pompeo's bill.
“Any law requiring the labeling of foods that contain GMO ingredients creates extra costs for farmers, food manufacturers, distributors, grocers, and consumers. The bill in Vermont is especially problematic because it puts these additional burdens solely on Vermont’s citizens," said Karen Batra, director of Food and Agriculture Communications with BIO. “If any labeling is necessary, requirements should be done on a national uniform level."
The Center for Food Safety says consumers overwhelming favor the right to know if GMOs are in their food.
"Nationwide GE labeling is not a question of if; it’s only a question of when," said Rebecca Spector, who heads labeling efforts at the Center for Food Safety and commented earlier this month on the Vermont Senate's passage of the bill. "And the answer is soon."