GMO labeling would begin in July 2016, according to Senate version

Sens. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, and Dick Sears, D-Bennington. File photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

Sens. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, and Dick Sears, D-Bennington. File photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

Vermont lawmakers are poised to “boldly go where no other state has gone before,” Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, said Thursday before casting his vote for an unprecedented food-labeling law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave H.112 unanimous approval Thursday. The bill would require the labeling of food made with genetically modified ingredients sold in Vermont.

Vermont will not wait for more states to adopt similar laws before it moves ahead with GMO labeling.

Connecticut and Maine have passed laws that included a trigger based on other states’ adoption of labeling provisions. Vermont lawmakers emulated Connecticut’s and Maine’s legislation, but did not include a trigger in H.112.

GMO label SLIDERVoter referendums for GMO labeling mandates failed in California and Washington in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Other states, including New Hampshire and New York, are considering their own standards.

As drafted, Vermont’s bill would apply to all food and drink sold in the state, except meat, milk and food sold in restaurants. After much discussion, committee members agreed it should also apply to chewing gum — but not chewing tobacco.

Lawmakers also agreed to establish a fund to cover the costs of implementing the law, including any legal challenge it might face.

“Maybe they won’t sue,” Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, quipped at one point while discussing the fund. “Maybe they’ll say, ‘Gee, Vermont, you’re doing the right thing.’”

Sears said he absolutely expects a lawsuit — which is why establishing a funding mechanism to pay for litigation is so important in his view.

Benning also anticipates a lawsuit.

“I want to make it very clear I’m not voting for this bill because I have some passionate desire to slap Monsanto,” Benning said. “This is, in my eyes, a simple request that I have the right to know what’s in my product when I buy it. No more, no less.”

The legislation previously won the support of the Senate Committee on Agriculture. It heads next to Appropriations before it goes to the Senate floor. Should it pass there, a conference committee would be needed to reconcile the bill with the version that passed the House in 2013.

If it becomes law, the Attorney General’s Office would begin rule-making immediately. Labeling requirements would take effect July 2016.

Vermont food producers

Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, thinks the delayed effective date will give food producers and retailers time to comply.

Jim Harrison, president of the Vermont Grocers’ Association, said the law would pose a problem for the state’s food producers regardless of timing. He said the fundamental challenge is a lack of uniformity with national standards.

“The action this morning concerns us in that Vermont is proceeding ahead alone in the labeling thus far,” Harrison said by phone Wednesday afternoon.

He explained that Vermont producers selling outside the state would be at a disadvantage if their GMO-labeled products compete on store shelves with brands not sold in Vermont that do not have to carry a GMO label.

The alternative would also be challenging: managing different labels for the same products, depending on where they’re sold.

Harrison said his organization does not hold a position on labeling. Grocers want to see a unified national approach that will be easier for U.S. producers to implement that would level the field of competition.

The dairy exemption

Sears and Benning both expressed serious reservations about the exemption for milk.

Often referred to as a “dairy” exemption, the provision is narrowly written. Only fluid milk would be exempt; dairy products such as yogurt or ice cream would have to be labeled if any of their non-milk ingredients contain GMOs.

The exemption is based on a lack of traceable GMO material in milk produced from cows that have consumed GMO corn, according to recent testimony by representatives from the Vermont Law School.

“Unless you’re changing the definition of genetically engineered, this bill won’t reach milk,” said Dave Rogers, policy adviser for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. He said the bottom line concern for GMO labeling advocates is genetically modified products.

Still, Sears and Benning worry about equal treatment under the law.

Food producers who are subject to the labeling law may cry foul if others are exempt, Benning said. Sears has worried out loud about a perception of favorable treatment for dairy producers in a state dominated by dairy agriculture.

They agreed to a study of the dairy exemption by the attorney general.

If the state law is litigated before Jan. 15, 2015, when the report is due, lawmakers said they would grant an indefinite extension for the study.

Special fund for litigation

Some committee members expressed reservations about the special fund for litigation, but none were concerned enough to let it affect their votes.

While no longer technically called a legal defense fund, that terminology has been used recently in the bill’s debate. Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, says it sets a precedent.

She worried that it sends a signal that Vermont state government is willing to go out on a limb for monied interests.

Ashe tried in vain to establish a more general litigation fund, unattached to any particular issue such as GMO labeling.

“Isn’t that the attorney general’s budget?” White responded. She said the potential for litigation from the GMO labeling law should be handled like any other state law the attorney general steps up to defend.

Sears was adamant about setting the money aside, however.

The special fund, which is designed to cover administrative costs, will receive money from any court settlements beyond what is already forecast for fiscal year 2015.

Tobacco, Medicaid and other settlement money that is earmarked will not be touched. But if more money than expected is to flow to the General Fund, it would go to the new GMO labeling special fund, instead.

Vermonters and supporters outside the state will be allowed to contribute to the cause. Sears said he has heard from many of the bill’s supporters who have said they would be happy to donate to the litigation fund.

Hilary Niles

Leave a Reply

22 Comments on "GMO labeling would begin in July 2016, according to Senate version"

1000

Comment Policy

VTDigger.org requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Be succinct and to the point. If your comment is over 500 words, consider sending a commentary instead.

We personally review and moderate every comment that is posted here. This takes a lot of time; please consider donating to keep the conversation productive and informative.

The purpose of this policy is to encourage a civil discourse among readers who are willing to stand behind their identities and their comments. VTDigger has created a safe zone for readers who wish to engage in a thoughtful discussion on a range of subjects. We hope you join the conversation.

Privacy policy
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Robert Wager
2 years 8 months ago

Why is it that no matter how many times politicians are educated on this subject they refuse to understand, GE is a breeding process not an ingredient.

This is the place to start if interested in this subject:
http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/csaph/a12-csaph2-bioengineeredfoods.pdf

Karl Riemer
2 years 8 months ago

Possibly because they find repeated, incorrect assertions unconvincing.

Breeding is a form of genetic modification. Transgenic technology is a different form. In other words, breeding & selection is a subset of GM, but GM ≠ breeding & selection. Genetic engineering is absolutely not a breeding process. The term exists to differentiate bioengineered organisms from sexual hybrids.

Your position is defensible if it’s that food products from bioengineered organisms are indistinguishable if not identical to food products from bred organisms, but if your defense is that the *processes* are identical, you have to expect to be ignored.

Walter Judge
2 years 8 months ago

You argue that GMOs are not merely a breeding process. Whether or not you are correct, you do not make the case that GMOs are an “ingredient.”

Karl Riemer
2 years 8 months ago

I’ve read this several times and can make no sense of it.
The first sentence is false. I did not argue; I defined, not as you’ve interpreted.
The second sentence is true. Self-evident and trivial, but factually correct.

Patrick Cashman
2 years 8 months ago

Oh goodie. The neo-Luddites explain why a technology that has saved countless millions of lives is suddenly “bad”.

Robert Wager
2 years 8 months ago

Please explain how random mutations of the entire genome of food crops with zero examination of what changes( deletions, insertions, recombinations, translocations, sequence changes) is somehow safer than exact geneome sequence data, location expression patterns etc for every GE crop.

These “traditional breeding methods” have been used for over 60 years. Ionizing radiation mutagenesis, chemical mutagenesis, and some newer ones, somaclonal variation, embryo rescue. all have far more DNA disruptions with zero testing or evaluations.

Karl Riemer
2 years 8 months ago

a) can’t
b) concur (except of course for the quoted phrase – that’s absurd. I don’t know what you think I was defending. For the record, it was precise use of language, without which we’re howling at the moon.)

Paula Schramm
2 years 8 months ago

“Breeding is a form of genetic modification. Transgenic technology is a different form. In other words, breeding & selection is a subset of GM, but GM ≠ breeding & selection. Genetic engineering is absolutely not a breeding process. The term exists to differentiate bioengineered organisms from sexual hybrids.”
Thanks, Karl, for giving a really clear response to Roger Wager’s opening comment . You did your part well….can’t force all these commenter to accept accuracy and clarity if they don’t want to, I guess…..

Kate Webb
2 years 8 months ago

Robert – the bill does not require labeling of ingredients. It requires the labeling of foods that are produced through genetic engineering, a process specifically defined in the bill. For religious, health, environmental, economic and political reasons, many Vermonters want to make an informed choice about the way their food is produced. There is nothing in the bill that restricts the right to use or to grow food produced in this way. It is simply a right to know.

William Floyd
2 years 8 months ago
Some simple points: After 30 plus years and hundreds of studies, the presence of GMO at the cellular level is undetectable and untraced to any types of food related health problems. Second, as a result of those facts, your food is already labeled correctly on GMOS. Finally, for those of us who care about health and child development, concern for other processed food additives and source ingredients is high. We avoid processed, hydrogentad, high fructose corn syrup, etc. and seek local fresh wherever and whenever we can. We already have the Organics labeling system which is De Facto GMO freedom… Read more »
Karl Riemer
2 years 8 months ago

Are you suggesting that Bill Sorrell supports this facacta legislation, or relishes defending it? Are you suggesting Bill Sorrell defends Vermont or Vermont laws *voluntarily*? Are you actually suggesting that defending indefensible legal positions is his preferred political strategy, or what he prefers doing with his life? Seriously?

Perhaps you should investigate the AG job description, and what this particular AG has said about this particular legislation, before attributing opprobrium.

victor ialeggio
2 years 8 months ago
William Floyd: “We already have the Organics labeling system…” Well, actually we do not have anything resembling a national standard for organic food production, as the term “Organic” continues to be co-opted for marketing purposes by larger and larger ag- and food-interests. And a similar situation applies for the term “Natural.” In fact, as requirements of the Federal Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) are slowly coming into effect and small-scale, organic, farmers across the country are finding themselves targeted by an oppressive food safety war, driven by the agriculture & chemical industries. The LA Times for March 4, 2014 reports, “…that… Read more »
victor ialeggio
2 years 8 months ago

quick update (3/4/14) from Organic Consumers Association (http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_29653.cfm)

“Without any input from the public, the USDA changed the way the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) decides which non-organic materials are allowed in certified organic. The change all but guarantees that when the NOSB meets every six months, the list of non-organic and synthetic materials allowed in organic will get longer and longer.”

Gets harder and harder to Eat Right.

Michael Colby
2 years 8 months ago
Again, this bill does NOTHING about addressing Vermont’s extensive use of GMO crops for dairy feed (GMO corn). Last year, more than 80,000 acres of GMO corn was grown in Vermont, making it the state’s top crop. The sooner we get this kind of vanity/busy work legislation out of the way, we can and should start focusing on banning GMO crops within the state. It’s the kind of initiative that will address all of the GMO concerns (environmental, health, corporate control), force us to address our own extensive involvement in it and, better yet, require us to chart a much… Read more »
Robert Wager
2 years 8 months ago

Funny how every food safety authority, every health authority and every National Academy of Science disagree with you.

“The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.” (AAAS 2012)

Tiki Archambeau
2 years 8 months ago

If Monsanto believes – and advocates for – GMO labeling in Britain, there is no reason it cannot be implemented here.

Nice work, lawmakers. Now how about some serious campaign finance reform (and that doesn’t mean increased limits)?

Ron Pulcer
2 years 8 months ago

In addition to ingredients (GMO or organic), it is also interesting to know which global corporations own all or part of various “organic” food companies, as they have scaled up their operations. Check out which coffee company that Coca-Cola owns 10% of (stock ownership I would guess):

Find Out Which Companies You Support When Buying Organic
TakePart.com
March 17, 2014
By Willy Blackmore

http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/03/17/big-businesses-behind-organic-brands?cmpid=tpseries-eml-2014-04-03-bestof

2 years 8 months ago

Looks like Monsanto has another trick up their sleeve. They’re going to try to make it illegal, thru Congress, to label GMO:

http://rt.com/usa/gmo-labeling-koch-monsanto-249/

victor ialeggio
2 years 8 months ago

Ray,
they have been kicking this idea around quite a while but only recently have come up with a suitable right-wing palooka to front it — Rep Mike Pompeo of Kansas.

His current sponsorships include: amending the 1986 IRS code to terminate certain [alternative] energy tax subsidies & lower the corporate income tax rate; eliminate the Economic Development Admin.; speed up Natural Gas pipeline permits; and (my favorite) a bill “to properly distinguish between decorative hearth products and vented hearth heaters.”
His legislative effectiveness ratio hovers around 2%.

2 years 8 months ago

Bravo!
Thank you for protecting our rights as consumers to be informed about the ingredients in the food we buy.

Armand Brunelle
2 years 8 months ago

No, NO, NO, Bad idea, Why not just have the people label any food they make when it GMO free.

Jackie Schmidts
2 years 8 months ago
If this bill passes, Vermonters, hold on to your checkbooks. This will be very costly litigation to say the least, it will hopefully raise your taxes even more. Then, prepare yourselves for fewer food products on your store shelves. Food companies will not label their products just for your puny state. Food companies will pull the products, it won’t be worth it to sell in your high taxed, liberal socialist state. You hippies can unite against GMOs, but to your demise. GMOs are here to stay, they are safe, (show me proof otherwise) they help feed hungry people all around… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "GMO labeling would begin in July 2016, according to Senate version"