GMO labeling bill heads for full Senate vote

An initiative to label foods containing genetically modified organisms sold in Vermont passed a legislative panel Thursday.

The Senate Appropriations committee unanimously approved H.112, a food-labeling bill designed to disclose GMOs found in certain foods. The full Senate will take up the bill as soon as next week.

Lawmakers anticipate defending the legislation in court and have set up a $1.5 million legal fund for the Vermont Attorney General’s Office. The money will come from any excess brought in by legal settlements made with businesses that violate the law; private donations from the public; and any appropriations from the general fund.

The committee amended the bill to require lawmakers to redirect any excess money in the fund after July 1, 2018, unless there are pending legal proceedings.

The attorney general would issue civil penalties up to $1,000 a day for each product that violates the law.

The House last session voted 99-42 in favor of the bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee this year removed triggers requiring it to go into effect by a certain date or sooner if other states adopt similar labeling provisions. The amended bill unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, has made the bill a priority this session.

“These have been three really strong committee votes. And the House has very strong votes,” he said after the vote. “So I think there is general will to move this legislation forward.”

The House will offer final recommendations on the bill if it passes the Senate.

“You never know if it’s going to conference committee what might happen there,” Zuckerman said.

Clarification: Wording in this article on the removal of “triggers” from the House bill and the source of funding for a legal defense of the law was made clearer at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

John HerrickJohn Herrick

Comments

  1. Judith McLaughlin :

    So, if I read this Bill correctly, Vermont is trying to pass a law, and at the same time exempt itself from it.

    The very same argument used to pass this law, exempts milk and animals. So I am to believe that Lab animals are affected by eating GMO feed, yet I’m not to worry because milk produced from cows eating a lifetime worth of GMO feed does not need to be labled….nor meat from same animals.

    Oh yes, and my favorite exemption…the “Oh I didn’t know” rule.

    The only thing I can say about this law, if passed is get ready for a lawsuit….a big one.

    • Paula Schramm :

      As you’ve probably heard explained before, the bill refers to food that is genetically modified or engineered as needing to be labeled.
      Animals that are not themselves genetically engineered do not fit that description, and therefore wouldn’t be labeled as such. The milk that such an animal produces is also not itself genetically engineered, so ditto with that.
      This doesn’t mean to say that we don’t need to pursue long-term and well-designed studies on the effects on animals of eating feed that includes GMOs, or on the food they produce, as in milk. It does mean that for the purposes of this bill, we should stick to the definitions given in it. If we confuse what this bill applies to, then it will be difficult to defend it properly.
      I think this issue is pretty straight-forward. If you are worried about a big lawsuit, then you will appreciate crafting a bill that can be defended with the most certainty at this time. We are being pioneers here. Let’s be smart pioneers. One mountain at a time please.

    • Al Walskey :

      Labeling is NOT a ban it is just information to inform consumers. As a diabetic I need to regulate my intake of carbohydrates. As one with high blood pressure sodium is of interest. Without this information health care costs would rise because consumers wouldn’t be able to make an informed decision to live a healthy life. Some choose to ignore labeling altogether until they develop a serious health issue.

      It would seem that if “the people” in our current watered down form of Democracy count then the wishes of the 76% of Vermonters who took the Bill Doyle survey who want GMO labeling should be honored. It is important to note that these folks are the ones who actually participate in politics by showing up to lobby their reps and more importantly VOTE!

      As a Veteran I have to wonder if the founding fathers would have cut and run from winning our independence if the British had only had the wisdom to threaten the colonies with a massive Monsanto-like lawsuit. Democracy can only continue when citizens choose to it’s worth defending.

      The proliferation today of chicken littles, chicken hawks and bar stool politicians worry me cause they tend to let clouds and twigs get in their way and are all too willing to trade the freedom won with the blood of heroes for questionable security. How do you feel about this?

      If the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (“TPP”) goes through as planned all of this pesky Democracy “of for and by the people” won’t matter because in a worst case scenario business entities in foreign countries could bypass “the pesky people” by using the courts to force questionable products/services on “the people” against our will.

    • Cheryl Payne :

      The FDA requires only a 3 month testing on animals to see if the chemicals used for GMO’s are lethal.The animals are contracting tumors and other diseases after a longer period of being fed a GE diet.So yes we are eating GE foods thru the animals and their milk.The animals need to be fed a non-gmo diet just like humans.Check out http://www.cornucopia.org

  2. randall wood :

    Excellent progress and Thank You. – looks like the first solid nail in the door that will keep GMO folly shut out once and for all.

  3. Robert Wager :

    A great place to start if interested in this debate

    http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/csaph/a12-csaph2-bioengineeredfoods.pdf

  4. Jason Wells :

    The vast majority of Vermonters have sided with GMO labeling. Its not like we don”t know that Montsanto etc is going to try to stop it. Quite frankly the cost is irrelevant to the issue. The people have spoken and now it is time for our Elected Officials to stand up and tear up this bill then rewrite it to take effect in one year with no exemptions period.

    Heck when Monstanto comes knocking let the VT Law School defend it. I bet they would take it for free. I am sure the Law School would have better results and besides the AG’s Office will probably be busy enough justifying numerous police shootings.

  5. Robert Wager :
    • Paula Schramm :

      This link is from Chubb Groups Insurance and has a banner ad across the top “BioTech Now”…..so that’s interesting.

      The article is announcing the American Medical Association’s decision to oppose labeling of GE foods :

      “Our AMA believes that as of June 2012, there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods, as a class, and that voluntary labeling is without value unless it is accompanied by focused consumer education.”

      This raise all sorts of questions in my mind : What is meant by “special” labeling ? How about just plain LABELING ?
      What is meant by “focused” consumer education ? I can just imaging what kind of focus they have in mind. I’m guessing it would be different from my focus…

      I don’t have enough information to intelligently comment on the possible perspective of the AMA as an organization. Though I find it telling that an insurance industry blog is the one choosing to announce this decision. My only comment is to recall feeling amazement and dismay, back in the day, when the AMA opposed a prescription drug coverage plan for Medicare. They have their own perspective.

  6. Gladys Rhoads :

    the chemicals they put on our grains and fruits and vegs. are making so many of us sick. I almost died from what is put on wheat until my granddaugther told me she has a friend that was (allergic) to wheat and now I eat nothing that has wheat in it and am finding about 6 other products I can not eat or drink as they make me very ill, I fully believe it is the chemicals added to the seeds.

  7. Winslow Wilson :

    Obviously GMO’s are very dangerous if the big manufacturers in the bio-tech industries are frightened that the general public might easily recognize the contents of food through proper labeling.

    It is up to us to make sure the USA general public gets informed.

    I make it a point that every time I am in a grocery store to inform at least one person to not eat GMO foods. I tell them, “You are what you eat.”

    Then I ask them “Do you want a chemical corporation that believes in Profit at any cost to go in and experiment on the billions of cells making up your body? To play around with their genetically modified products?

    Then I ask them the clincher question. ” Why do you think they are spending billions of dollars to make sure you don’t get proper labeling?”

    It’s amazing how many people I come across that genuinely like the information. Never doubt the power of the spoken word and word of mouth.

    I tell them of the Trick Word the bio-tech industries are using along with the big food producers: the word Natural. I tell them that Polio is Natural, practically anything can be called natural.

    Consumers sometimes get angry that they’ve been fooled by these big Corporate Enterprises. I usually end telling the person that these big companies refer to you as “Fish in a Barrel.” they only have you in that holding tank and easy to shoot, if you let them.

    I quickly tell them about the local health food store and ask them to commit to telling at least one good friend about GMO’s and for them to ask that friend to do the same, with his or her friends.

    All this makes a difference believe it or not.

    Don’t wait for people who are supposed to represent your interests to do anything. Many of them are getting big bucks to keep the general public as uninformed as possible.

    Go out and do it yourself, get involved.

    I’ve probably convinced at least a hundred people by word of mouth. They may have informed at least one friend maybe not, but I think there’s a good chance at least 50% of them did it and therefore the ball is rolling because it’s like a wave of information energy going out into the world. It reverberates and bounces off of more and more targets.

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