Vermont overwhelmingly passes GMO labeling bill
Governor Pete Shumlin says he looks forward to signing bill
The Vermont legislature recently passed the first “no strings attached” bill in the United States to require mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor with the state’s Senate voting 28-2 followed by the House of Representatives shortly after, 114-30. Vermont Governor Pete Shumlin said he looked forward to signing the bill.
David Zuckerman, organic farmer and state senator (P-Chittenden), who has worked for over 15 years on GMO issues and was a key developer of the labeling bill, H.112, attributes the grassroots support from Vermonters as critical to the measure’s success. “Vermont voters are more in tune with the topic of GMOs, because we’ve been talking about food policy issues and GMOs for years.”
Sen. Bobby Starr can attest to that enthusiasm and kept hearing voters bring up the topic. “Lo and behold, GMOs would float to the top of the debate within those public meetings,” he said.
Unlike bills recently passed in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Vermont’s proposal does not include a trigger clause requiring neighboring states to pass similar laws. “Many of our supporters didn’t want to be dependent on legislative outcomes in other states,” Zuckerman said.
Vermont’s leadership could inspire similar actions nationwide. “Vermont has now put a stake in the sand around food transparency, and it may well help create that across the country, much as we did with marriage equality and other historic measures,” Zuckerman said.
In a statement following the House vote, Governor Pete Shumlin said: “The legislature has spoken loud and clear: Vermonters deserve to know what is in their food. I wholeheartedly agree and look forward to signing the GMO labeling bill into law. I believe this bill is the right thing to do and will gain momentum elsewhere after our action here in Vermont.”
Sen. Dick Sears (and nearly everyone) expects a lawsuit, and he introduced a special fund that would help cover administrative costs in the event of a lawsuit. Attorney General Bill Sorrell recommended a 2016 effective date, to allow for rules to be promulgated and for food companies to have time to adjust their labels to meet the requirements.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has lobbied for the so-called “DARK Act” that would prohibit state labeling laws, has called Vermont’s labeling bill “a step in the wrong direction for consumers.”
“Vermont’s initiative has spurred agrichemical industry lobbyists to push legislation at the national level that would eliminate states’ rights to protect their consumers,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs at Center for Food Safety. “We vow to fight them every step of the way and call out industry efforts to keep consumers in the dark.”
Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union hailed the bill passage as a “historic day for consumers” and praised Vermont for its courage. “Consumers Union especially commends Vermont for having the courage to stand up to corporate bullying.”
(Sources: VT Digger; WCAX; MyChamplainValley.com; Burlington Free Press)
© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, May 2014