Vermont Legislature Passes the First Real GMO Labeling Bill
On April 23, 2014, the Vermont legislature passed the first no strings attached law to require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. The House voted 114-30 to accept the Senate version of the bill passed last week. It now heads to Governor Shumlin, who is expected to sign the bill. The law would go into effect July 1, 2016.
“This is an historic day for the people’s right to know. It is now very clear that federal labeling of genetically engineered foods is going to happen in the foreseeable future,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety (CFS).
“The people and legislators of Vermont have taken a tremendous step forward in allowing their citizens to know what is in their food. All families deserve this simple right to know,” said Rebecca Spector, who heads state labeling efforts at Center for Food Safety. “We congratulate all of the activists and lawmakers in Vermont who made this victory possible.”
“Should the industry try to challenge this law, Center for Food Safety will be there to help defend it and we are confident that it would survive any such challenge,” added Kimbrell.
Center for Food Safety helped draft the legislation in consultation with state representatives. CFS has been at the center of the fight to inform consumers about GE foods for over a decade. CFS has worked with Vermont legislators and organizations on GE food labeling since 2005, providing legal testimony, resources, and expert advice.
Unlike other state labeling laws, the Vermont labeling bill (H. 112) is the first bill that will go into effect regardless of actions by other states. Previous GMO labeling bills in Connecticut and Maine have required that a certain number of states enact similar legislation before they would take effect.
Once signed into law, Vermont’s mandatory labeling policy will likely set the stage for more states to introduce and adopt no strings attached labeling laws.
The findings of the bill state that “Because both the FDA and the U.S. Congress do not require the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering, the State should require food produced with genetic engineering to be labeled as such in order to serve the interests of the State.”
The bill also states, “In addition to requiring that foods produced using genetic engineering be labeled, the bill also mandates that GE foods cannot be labeled as “natural,” or any words of similar import that would have a tendency to mislead a consumer.
Sixty-four nations including China, South Africa, and all countries in the European Union currently require GE foods to be labeled. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently introduced federal legislation that would require nationwide labeling of GE products. That bill has 65 cosponsors.