With the opportunity to make a little history on the line, the Vermont House of Representatives decided not to quibble about its original GMO labeling bill. Instead of asking for a conference committee with the Vermont Senate to work out their differences, the House on Wednesday just passed the upper chamber’s version on a 114-30 vote.
That action sends the amended House Bill 112 to Gov. Peter Shumlin’s desk. If Shumlin signs it, as he has indicated he will, Vermont will become the first state to require, solely on its own authority, the mandatory labeling of foods containing ingredients that were subjected to “genetic engineering.”
Reaction to the Vermont House vote broke along predictable lines. A spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers Association said the Vermont bill is “critically flawed and bad for consumers,” while the Vermont Public Interest Research Group hailed the bill as a “model that rest of the country can look to moving forward.”
In a statement, the GMA further noted that, “GM crops are safe and have important benefits for people and our planet. The government therefore has no compelling interest in warning consumers about foods containing GM ingredients ….”
The Vermont Senate had extensively amended the original version of HB 112 adopted by the House last year. Among the changes was the inclusion of a legal defense fund for the new law, which would not take effect until July 1, 2016.
Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, testified in support of HB 112 and similar legislation in other states and said it plans to help defend such laws in court if necessary.
“Consumers Union especially commends Vermont for having the courage to stand up to corporate bullying, including threats of suits and other legal action from the large biotech companies and food retailers. If Vermont is sued, we intend to use all the resources at our disposal to support Vermont in its groundbreaking effort,” said Jean Halloran, the group’s director of food policy initiatives.
The amended bill also sets up a process for deciding if milk and milk products should be subjected to the law’s mandates or entirely exempted.
The Vermont House delayed action for 24 hours to allow three committees to consider whether it should ask for a conference with the Senate or simply vote to concur, which it did Wednesday. Since the campaign to label genetically engineered food began, voters in California and Washington state rejected the scheme and lawmakers in Maine and Connecticut passed labeling laws that would only go into effect if adopted by surrounding states.© Food Safety News