Vermont’s state legislature is the next state to consider a bill that would require food be labeled if it contained genetically modified ingredients. On Thursday, Vermont’s House approved a bill (H.112) that would require GMOs to be labeled on all food.
The bill was advanced on a 107-37 vote and now waits to be approved by the Senate. If the Senate approves the bill, it will take effect two years after the date it is passed or 18 months after at least two other states adopt similar bills, whichever comes first. So the earliest it would be required to label GMOs is 2015.
The bill would require food manufacturers to label food produced through genetic engineering and would prohibit this use of the term “natural” on labels. The new bill exempts meat and dairy products from requiring a label for GMOs.
Support for GMO labeling is considered strong in Vermont by Falko Schilling, a consumer protection advocate with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. Schilling said a recent study from the University of Vermont’s Center for Rural Studies showed that 95 percent of people in Vermont support GMO labeling.
Critics of the bill say it goes too far in its regulations. Rep. Harvey Smith (R-New Haven), a long-time farmer that recently started using genetic engineering technology on his dairy farm, told VPR.net, “If you look at the labeling and there’s any corn, any canola, any soy ingredients in there, you can be darn sure there’s a 95 percent chance that you’re buying GMO food.”
“We’re really making some great gains in our productivity and our ability to reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides, and we’re afraid we’re going to lose our ability to use this new technology,” Smith said during the Republican caucus.
Anti-GMO groups applauded the House’s passage of the bill. However, Assistant Attorney General Bridget Asay told lawmakers that biotechnology companies would probably sue the state over First Amendment rights and that federal preemption questions would likely be raised over the issue if it is signed into law.