Vermont News Briefs

Connecticut passes GMO-labeling law, but Vermont could still be first to require it

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.

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Andrew Stein

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  • James Maroney

    People who are concerned about what’s in their food, should pay less attention to GMOs, which are a completely unknown health risk, and more attention to artificial, petroleum-based fertilizers and herbicides which are applied routinely by conventional farmers to the food they seem to prefer and which are a very well known health risk. Buy organic; it doesn’t permit GMOs or artificial fertilizers and herbicides and it is clearly labeled. As an added bonus, organic food returns a greater percentage of your food dollars to farmers than conventional. If Vermont is concerned about being sued for labeling GMOs it should convert its farmers to organic; it is not patented and it is already federal law.

    • John Greenberg

      Like most folks, I am concerned with what’s in my food, but I’m just as concerned with the impact my food has on the environment. While GMOs represent “a completely [not completely, actually] unknown health risk,” their use represents a far better understood risk to the planet, especially in the current incarnation of “Roundup Ready” seeds.

      Conversion to organic is an excellent solution, which I’ve been advocating (and implementing) for decades, but unless and until all food is grown organically (which is unlikely to happen soon), we still need to be concerned with the impact of conventionally-grown and GMO agriculture on our environment, whether we eat strictly organic, partially organic, or entirely conventionally grown foods.

  • Willem Post

    GMO corn and the sugar derived from such corn is used in many supermarket foods.

    Even worse are meat and meat products from GMO corn-fed cattle, because any toxins are magnified several thousand times; first there is the magnification from the soil to the corn and then from the corn to the meat.

    Such foods should not be consumed by pregnant women, babies, young children, people in poor health, etc., to minimize adverse outcomes and future health care expenses.

    One has to start somewhere. De-industrializing our food supply and encouraging more organic food production are long overdue.