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Vermont Lawmakers Approve GMO Label Bill

Vermont is in striking distance to pass the country's first law to require labels on GMO foods – and they're already bracing for lawsuits.

A model of a DNA strand on display at an art gallery

Photo: net_efekt (flickr)

The fight over whether to label genetically modified foods promises to heat up this year as dozens of states consider similar laws, and food industry groups push for a federal law that would undercut state requirements.

Score one win for the pro-labeling campaign. On a vote of 28 to 2, the Vermont Senate last week approved a bill to require labels on all genetically modified food in the state, the first of its kind in the country. The state’s House signed off on the Senate’s version, and the bill is already hovering on Governor Peter Shumlin’s desk. The former “Team Kale” champion has stated he’d sign the bill.

The bill would require labels on foods containing ingredients with “genetic engineering,” and makes it illegal to claim such foods are “natural” on any packaging. The rules would go into effect on July 1st, 2016.

The bill states that genetically modified foods “potentially pose risks to health, safety, agriculture and the environment.”

Vermont is bracing for lawsuits from industry groups and companies like Monsanto. The state’s Attorney General said he’d be surprised if the state wasn’t sued over the law, and the Senate version of the bill added $1.5 million to defend against possible litigation.

Supporters of genetically modified crops and the food industry that relies on them are pushing for a national law that would make all GMO labels voluntary, a move that would undercut state laws like Vermont’s.

Maine and Connecticut passed laws that would require GMO food labels if a critical mass of other states go first. Labeling bills were defeated in California and Washington state after national industry groups waged expensive media campaigns against them. Two dozen other states are considering GMO label bills, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Chad Bouchard

Chad Bouchard is a veteran reporter and WFIU alum who has covered wild and wooly beats from Indonesia to Capitol Hill. His radio work has aired on NPR, PRI and Voice of America, and his writing has appeared in The Sunday Telegraph and Scientific American’s health magazine, Lives. He has also spent a lifetime gardening, foraging and eating weird stuff.

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