The Vermont House was the first legislative body in the U.S. to approve a bill that would require the labeling of foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But the Legislature won’t be the first to pass such a bill into law.
Monday, Connecticut’s general assembly became approved the first GMO labeling law in the country, and Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy has said he would sign it.
Vermont Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, vice-chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, which is set to take up Vermont’s GMO labeling bill in the second half of the biennium next year. He has fought for similar legislation in Vermont for a decade.
“As legislative bodies move this forward, it will certainly add to our Legislature’s confidence that it’s worth moving forward,” he said.
One of the arguments against a GMO labeling law in the Vermont House was that the food and biotech industries would almost surely sue the state.
Falko Schilling, consumer advocate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, lobbied hard for the bill during the past session. He said this new Connecticut law should help quell the concerns of many opponents.
“Passing a bill like this shows that it’s something that states can do,” he said. “Here in Vermont, I think, it will help our lawmakers take a stand.”
Schilling and Zuckerman pointed to the hefty “trigger” the Connecticut bill puts in place for fully implementing the law.
Connecticut won’t require the labeling of GMO foods until at least four other states, including one along Connecticut’s border, have enacted similar laws. Connecticut also won’t require labeling unless the total population of these states in the Northeast region of the U.S. — New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — exceeds 20 million. The state of Vermont’s roughly 620,000 residents would have little effect on this second requirement, if the Green Mountain State enacts such a law.
“It shows legislators and people across the country are interested in knowing what’s in their food,” Zuckerman said. “Their triggers are a bit high, but I think it builds momentum for what is going on here.”
By comparison, the bill that passed out of the Vermont House — if it were passed by the Legislature — would go into effect July 1, 2015, or 18 months after two other states enact similar legislation, whichever comes first.
Schilling said that with Connecticut’s high hurdles to implementing a labeling law, Vermont might very well become the first state that requires the labeling of GMO foods.