Senate passes GMO labeling bill

The Vermont Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to legislation that will require manufacturers to label foods with genetically engineered raw ingredients.

If H.112 is enacted, Vermont will be the first state in the nation to require labeling of genetically modified organisms. The law would go into effect on July 1, 2016.

GMOs are used in more than 80 percent of processed foods – such as sweeteners, cereals, oils and snack foods – according to federal regulators.

The effect of GMOs on human health is unclear, but Vermont lawmakers say the bill is about a consumer’s right to know what they purchase.

“It’s about consumer information. Period,” said Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, the lead sponsor of the Senate’s bill.

Though scientists disagree on the health-related impacts of consuming GMOs, Zuckerman, who is vice chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, pointed to their alarming impacts on industrial agriculture.

In some areas of the country, farmers who use the weedkiller Roundup are seeing the rapid growth of herbicide-resistant weeds. In Tennessee, farmers will pay about $120 billion for stronger (and more) herbicides this year, he said.

“And there is no question that the increased use of those herbicides will have an environmental impact,” Zuckerman said. “So if as a consumer you’re concerned about the long-term health of our nation’s soils, water, flora and fauna … then that could be a decision as to why you don’t want to buy a GMO product.”

The bill includes exemptions for animal products, but asks the Attorney General to report back to lawmakers with a recommendation whether to label dairy products containing GMOs.

“Ideally, as a consumer, I would like the labeling on a broader range of products,” Zuckerman said. “(But) I didn’t want to lose the bill on legal grounds because of my wishes. I wanted to get through what we can do that is defensible.”

Bill Sorrell, the Vermont Attorney General, anticipates constitutional challenges from biotech industry. The bill sets up a $1.5 million special fund for legal challenges funded through private donations, state appropriations, and settlements. Sorrell estimates it would cost $1 million to win a case, but if the state lost, the cost could be $5 million or more.

Zuckerman said members of the House generally supported the Senate’s version of the bill.

Rep. Teo Zagar, D-Barnard, who serves on the Agriculture Committee, played an active role in moving the bill through the House last year.

“I’m quite satisfied with what the Senate has done,” Zagar said.

He expected the Senate to keep a trigger in place that would enact the law sooner if other states passed similar policies.

“But I was pleasantly surprised that they kept it open and kept it with a date certain,” he said. “I’m pleased with it.”

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John Herrick

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  • I will bet you today that all VT legislators who are sheparding this GMO labeling bill have
    already been informed from “above” that it’s OK to proceed since Congress is going to intervene and overrule ALL such state involvement in GMO “commerce” anyway…..
    Thus the VT bill becomes charade,
    and a great opportunity for grandstanding. And there will be another, when the Feds actually do this and all of our “Heros” can then denounce the bad old Congress to the people and in the press—while not harming a single hair on Monsanto’s head. All fakery. Ten bucks. Any takers?

    2LT Dennis Morrisseau USArmy [armor – Vietnam era] retired. W Pawlet 645-9727

    • victor ialeggio

      “Above?” And who might that be? Mike Pompeo (R Kansas) and GK Butterfield (D N Carolina), the Monsanto stooges for the initiative to which you refer, have a combined legislative effectiveness hovering around 2%.

      from Pompeo’s site:
      “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 [H4432] would establish a federal labeling standard for foods with genetically modified ingredients, giving sole authority to the Food and Drug Administration to require mandatory labeling on such foods if they are ever found to be unsafe or materially different from foods produced without GM ingredients.”

      FDA administration (from industry, on a revolving basis) has no desire or intention make that determination; nor will it allow independent American scientists to do so. Pompeo & Butterfield’s bill explicitly raises the point of “safety;” VT H.112 deliberately avoids a mention of “safety” in favor of “right to know.” Exactly like the information about the sodium or saturated fats or carbs or sugars on any retail food product you pick up. Information which some thoughtful retailers also post about raw or bulk foods as well.

  • krister adams

    Thank you Senators.

  • Connie Godin

    Just YEAH!!!!

  • Desiree Wyatt

    Thank you, but….what about Mike Pompeo (R-Kan) ?

  • Judith Persin

    A relative in PA said the GMO victory in Vermont was on the front page of her newspaper. Not here! The Valley News here puts the stupidest things on the front page; then something that is a significant accomplishment, and the first of a historical event, is suppressed (that happens in their very own area).

    Just think how many more people would have been drawn to see that on the front page and become more curious about GMOs in their food! Like the legislators who voted against the labeling bill, The Valley News is a liability to the people of Vermont! Those legislators and the editor of the VN are not supporting the people and the interests of VT. They are actually helping the corporate corruption to continue. They did not take the time to learn enough about GMOs and what they actually are and how dangerous they are, as proven by actual legitimate studies and facts. They think they know more than the people of Vermont! Not so!

    And concerning the legislators who voted against it, it is an arrogant attack against democracy as they “forgot who elected them and who they were representing”! Had they researched and studied the history of Monsanto, the origins of GMOs and how they were never properly approved, the devastation that is being caused by GMOs to health, organic farming, and the entire environment, they would have absolutely known why it is worth every risk that may be involved ( financial or otherwise) to demand labeling of these poisons. When it comes time to outlaw all planting of GMOs, I fear that these legislators will still barely know what a GMO actually is. The same goes for the editor of the Valley News!

    Let’s not re-elect people who do not serve us! Let’s not support newspapers which do not care about the interests of the Vermont people and which do not know what is significant and what isn’t!

    And let’s be sure to thank all our house members and senators who worked so hard to make this possible, as well as those of Rural VT, NOFA, and VPIRG. These did their homework! They know what a GMO is and why this bill is so important.

    • Dan Emerson

      Go Vermont. You deserve highest accolades and d massive support for making the first hard “shot heard ’round the USA, Wall St. and possibly the World”. You uphold our hard won rights noted the Declaration of Independence and our right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Those rights include the Liberty from agribusiness efforts to decide what we should know, allowing us to Pursue Happiness in knowing we can make well informed choices of food that affect the Life of our family, friends, and pets. May Masschusetts soon join you, and may sufficient states ensure defeat of US Senator Pompeo’s HR 4432 which would wipe out state rights to label GMOs..