Vermont lawmakers have passed the country’s first state bill to require the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO).
The Vermont House approved the measure April 23, about a week after approval by the Vermont Senate. Gov. Peter Shumlin said he plans to sign it.
The requirements would take effect July 1, 2016.
Unlike bills passed last year in Maine and Connecticut, which require four or five other states to pass GMO labeling laws before they can be enacted, Vermont’s law contained no “trigger” clauses, making it the first clean GMO labeling law in the country.
“Any law requiring the labeling of foods that contain GMO ingredients creates extra costs for farmers, food manufacturers, distributors, grocers and consumers,” according to Karen Batra, Biotechnology Industry Organization director of food and agriculture communications. She said the Vermont bill is especially problematic because it puts these additional burdens solely on Vermont’s citizens.
Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Assn. (OCA), issued a strongly worded statement following the earlier House vote noting that the national grassroots movement calling for mandatory labeling has prevailed despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent fighting against it.
Cummins said, “Vermont’s landmark victory today will force food companies to either label GMOs in all states, or reformulate their products to be GMO-free in order to avoid stating ‘this product was produced using genetic engineering’ on their packaging.”
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) has introduced legislation that provides for a national uniform standard, rather than a state patchwork of bills. That legislation is widely supported by mainstream agricultural groups. Over 25 states have introduced a bill or referendum that calls for labeling of genetically engineered foods. Currently Oregon is considering a citizens’ ballot initiative to label GMOs in November.
It is estimated that has much as 80% of foods contain at least trace amounts of genetically engineered ingredients.
Industry anticipates labeling could increase costs to consumers by as much as $400 per year.