By a vote of 28 to 2, the Vermont state Senate passed H.112, a bill to require mandatory labeling of foods sold in Vermont that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The bill also makes it illegal to call any food product containing GMOs “natural” or “all natural.”
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 contains no “trigger” clauses, making it the first clean GMO labeling law in the country.
The bill now goes back to the House which is expected to agree to the Senate’s amendments, then to Gov. Peter Shumlin who is expected to sign it.
“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. “The proposal under consideration in Vermont 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 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 OCA expects “Monsanto will sue the state of Vermont in order to prevent enactment of H.112. We also expect that Monsanto will lose, and the law will go into effect on schedule, on July 1, 2016.”
Cummins added, “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.) introduced legislation last week that provides for a national uniform standard, rather than a state patchwork of bills, and 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 GE ingredients, and industry anticipates labeling could increase costs to consumers by as much as $400 per year.
“If any labeling is necessary, requirements should be done on a national uniform level. Such an approach was proposed last week in the U.S. Congress in the form of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 4432), which appropriately places the authority of food labeling within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” Batra said.