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 Herrick

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