In updating its dairy law last session, the Vermont Legislature allowed personal consumption of unpasteurized (raw) milk purchased from another consumer to continue to be a legal transaction in the state. That was about as wild it usually gets in the Vermont Legislature.
This year could be a bit different, however.
In overhauling the law that governs the state’s 1,000 cow, sheep and goat dairy farms, which produce more than 2.5 billion pounds, or 293 million gallons, of milk each year, Vermont took careful steps.
Anyone who purchases raw milk is limited to sharing it only among household members or “non-paying” guests.
The rest of the new Vermont law requires licensing and inspection of dairy farms with legal language focusing the state’s Secretary of Agriculture on investigating milk handler’s premises, records and personnel. If refused access, Vermont can stop milk shipments.
Unlike neighboring New Hampshire, the Vermont Legislature remains solidly “blue” with Democrats control both chambers. The Senate is controlled 22-8 by the Democrats, as is the House by 96-46. Eight “non democrats” caucus with the Democrats in the House.
One bill that could shake things up in the current session is House Bill 722, a 16-page measure requiring labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
The bill, known as the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, was called an “initiative against Monsanto and other biotechnology corporations” by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA),
“Perhaps most monumental is the fact that the legislation would prohibit GMO food manufacturers from using promotional labels like “natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown,” “all natural,” or any words of similar import, the OCA said.
“This bill proposes to provide that food is misbranded if it is entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering and it is not labeled as genetically engineered,” according to the bill’s statement of purpose.
GMO ingredients are found in an estimated 80 percent of packaged foods in the U.S. And 92 percent of soy crops, 86 percent of corn crops and 90 percent of canola crops are genetically modified.
At least two similar labeling laws were introduced in Vermont last session, and neither of those got anywhere. HB 123 was limited to salmon or salmon products, requiring that any salmon raised through genetic engineering must “be conspicuously identified.”
The salmon bill was assigned to the House Fish, Wildlife, and Water Resources Committee, and went no further.
The other bill was the three-page HB 367, assigned to the House Agriculture Committee. It called for “a conspicuous label on the package” of genetically engineered food or food products offered for sale in Vermont. It also died in committee.
In addition to being longer, HB 722 is more complicated than last year’s bill. To make the law more understandable, the bill includes legal definitions for such terms as enzyme, in vitro nucleic acid techniques and cell fusion, all from the language of genetic engineering.