Last week, Vermont’s senate voted in favor of requiring foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled. The House passed the bill back in May of 2013. Before the bill becomes law, the state House will need to accept amendments made by the Senate, and then the bill will be signed into law by the governor. That could all happen by the end of this week.
“We are saying people have a right to know what’s in their food,” Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell told the Burlington Free Press.
Unlike the bills that have passed in Connecticut and Maine, where labeling is contingent upon neighboring states passing similar bills, the Vermont law would require foods containing GMOs to be labeled by July 1, 2016.
Lawmakers and lobbyists are anticipating that food manufacturers or others in the biotech industry will sue the state. “We expect that Monsanto will sue the state of Vermont in order to prevent enactment of H.112,” writes Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association. “We also expect that Monsanto will lose, and the law will go into effect on schedule, on July 1, 2016.” The bill has provisions for the state’s legal expenses.
The labeling of GMOs has become highly controversial in the U.S. Opponents of the labeling laws, like the Grocery Manufacturers Association, argue that genetically modified crops are safe for consumption and necessary for keeping the cost of food low. They’re pushing for laws at the federal level that could override state-level regulations like the one in Vermont.
On the other hand, many supporters of labeling worry about the long-term health effects of consuming GMO foods, and also about the environmental impacts of some genetically modified crops.
There are also some who see GMO labeling not as a safety issue, but rather as a transparency issue. Vermont state Senator Joe Benning told the Burlington Free Press that labeling GMOs is no different than providing information about other ingredients, without making a value judgement. He likened the label to a nutrition label that indicates how many carbohydrates are in a drink. “I know what carbohydrates can do to my body,” he said. “Some people in this room, that’s exactly how they feel about GMOs.”