Yesterday, Vermont’s House of Representatives approved the final amendments to the state’s mandatory GMO labeling bill, sending it to the governor’s desk for his signature.
The bill is considered unprecedented because it requires all foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled by July 1, 2016. The bill also makes it illegal for any foods containing GMOs to be called “natural” or “all natural.”
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said he will sign the bill into law, reports The Burlington Free Press.
The only other states to have passed GMO labeling laws are Maine and Connecticut, but both will require labeling only if several neighboring states pass similar laws.
The debate over labeling foods containing GMOs in the U.S. is fierce. Opponents feel the labels will scare consumers unnecessarily. Many manufacturers of foods containing GMOs say the products are safe and that labeling will add to the cost.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a press release that the bill is “critically flawed and not in the best interests of consumers.” They argue that state-by-state labeling laws will create a costly “patchwork” of requirements for multinational companies, and are seeking overruling legislation at the federal level.
Supporters of labeling laws argue that consumers have the right to know if their foods contain GMO ingredients. “We congratulate the Vermont legislature on its passage of a law to require labeling of genetically engineered food sold in the state and we commend Governor Shumlin for stating that he will sign the bill,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, in a press statement.
The bill anticipates lawsuits from the biotech industry, and has provisions for $1.5 million to help pay the state’s legal fees. “If Vermont is sued, we intend to use all the resources at our disposal to support Vermont in its groundbreaking effort,” said Halloran.